Craig Young continued his magnificent bowling form, taking three wickets today to ensure Ireland defeated Bahrain in a must-win Group Stage match of the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier at the Al Almerat Stadium today.
Young, bowling in his now customary first-change role, claimed the first three Bahraini wickets today to effectively end what early prospects Bahrain had of pulling off an upset victory.
His 3-16 from four overs saw the North West Warriors’ paceman use variations of line, pace – and occasional bouncers – to prove a handful for the opposition batters. While his spell today arguably changed the momentum of the match, it continues his good recent form with the ball.
His three wickets today brings his wicket tally to 11 in his last four matches on this tour, at an average of 9.01. Combined with his three three-wicket hauls against West Indies in the ODI series last month, it brings to 20 his international wicket tally in 2022 so far, equalling his wicket tally in the whole of 2021.
Young’s fellow North West Warriors teammate Andy McBrine also delivered an influential spell, taking 1-19 from his four overs – his wicket being his 100th international wicket for Ireland across all formats.
Despite a positive start chasing 159 to win, the Bahrain batting unit never recovered from losing those first three wickets to Young. Muhammad Younis (30) and David Mathias (28) – and a late cameo by Veerapathiran Sathaiya of 33* from 14 balls – injected runs into the final total, but from the 9th over of the run chase the Irish felt in control.
Bahrain finished on 137-5 from their 20 overs, handing Ireland a crucial 21-run win.
Earlier in the day Irish skipper Andrew Balbirnie won the toss and decided to bat first, noting at the toss that runs on the board were crucial. He and Paul Stirling started positively, moving swiftly to 60 from the first eight overs without losing a wicket.
The captain struck 3 fours and a six in his knock of 33 from 25 balls before falling to an outfield catch. Stirling – unusually quiet at the other end – fell shortly after for 32 from 35 balls, pushing a slow ball from wrist-spinner Junaid Aziz back to the bowler who safely claimed the return catch.
Then a familiar trend set in – the Irish middle order stuttered, losing wickets and the run rate began to drop. When George Dockrell – in his 250th match for Ireland (all formats) – came to the crease in the 16th over, Ireland were 100-4 and the ‘in’ batter Gareth Delany was striking at only just over a run-a-ball.
However, the Leinster Lightning captain began a counter-attack in the last five overs – he struck two sixes and a four in an innings of 24 from 11 balls to propel Ireland to over the 150-mark.
Delany also sensed this change in scoring momentum and began to swing through the line of the ball more freely. He struck three maximums and a boundary in his third T20I half-century, finishing 51* from 34 balls – Delany’s fifty coming up off the last ball of the innings.
Ireland’s 158-5 from 20 overs looked slightly below par, but the final burst of 58 from the last five overs gave the Irish bowlers a target they had a chance of defending.
After the match captain, Balbirnie said: “A tough test today, we had to fight and scrap – Gareth Delany and George Dockrell did that with the bat to probably get us into a winning position. It was a slow enough wicket and it was hard to take 10 wickets, so we had to restrict them and bowl tight lines, which I thought we did pretty well.
“Craig Young has been bowling brilliantly for a couple of years for us and he’s really taken on that senior bowling role mantle, he was really good again today, as were most of our bowlers.
“We knew this would be a tough test, and we know over these last few games we have to be on it.
“As for Germany, we’re not playing good enough cricket to under-estimate any team, and we are hoping to hit our peak form over these last key games and earn that right to go to Australia.”
Player of the Match Delany said: “It was a bit tricky to start – to be honest, George coming in helped me get going, he really added some impetus there in the middle, which helped towards the end.
“It was an incredible day for George – his 250th international, which is an achievement in itself – I love playing with George, we’ve obviously grown up playing with each other as well, and today we really got on well in the middle.
“Yesterday was disappointing, and we know these next two games we have to win. Hopefully, we can play well enough to get to a semi-final place, but today is a bit of relief.”
Ireland continues their ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier campaign on Monday against Germany at 10am (local time) or 6am (GMT) at the same venue.
Ireland Men v Bahrain Men, T20 World Cup Qualifier, Muscat, 19 February 2022
Ireland 158-5 (20 overs; P Stirling 51*, A Balbirnie 33; J Aziz 2-16)
UAE 137-5 (20 overs: V Sathaiya 33; C Young 3-16, A McBrine 1-19)
Ireland Men won by 21 runs