Fight for two slots in the World Twenty20 goes down to the wire
The International Cricket Council’s World Twenty20 qualifier was still wide open with all four remaining sides still in with an equal chance of securing the two available slots in the tournament to be staged in the West Indies from April 30 to May 16.
Joint-defending champions Ireland and the Netherlands had to produce their best all-round performances to end the unbeaten runs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Afghanistan respectively, that has left all the four teams on equal points after the penultimate day’s action in this five-day tournament. This means tomorrow’s matches at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City between the UAE and Afghanistan, and Ireland and the Netherlands will be as good as the semi-finals with the winners progressing to the main event.
In addition to this, winners of tomorrow’s matches will also go head to head in the final to be played later in the evening. The winner of the final will join South Africa and India in Group C of the event in the West Indies and the losing finalists will join Group D which includes the West Indies and England. In the first match of the day, the Netherlands twice recovered from middle-order collapses to defeat Afghanistan by four wickets with seven balls to spare in front of thousands of very vocal Afghanistan supporters.
Chasing 129 for victory, the Netherlands slipped from 64-0 to 74-3 in a space of 14 balls before recovering to 109-3 in 15 overs. At that stage, the Dutch again lost three wickets in 12 balls for nine runs to slump to 118-6 which left them requiring 11 runs for victory from 18 balls. However, Essex batsman Ryan ten Doeschate took control of the proceedings and took the Dutch over the finish-line without any further loss. Ten Doeschate was left unbeaten on 24 from 20 balls which earned him the Man-of-the-Match award. The other notable run-getter was opener Alexei Kervezee who scored 39 having been dropped off the third ball of his innings, while for Afghanistan Mohammad Nabi was the most successful bowler with 3-23.
Earlier, Afghanistan threw away a blistering start when they reached 30-0 after four overs before finishing their innings at 128-9. Four batsmen were run-out due to a combination of good fielding and poor running between the wickets that badly hit their chances of posting a more formidable score.
In the second match, Ireland defeated host the UAE by 22 runs. A late assault by Kevin O’Brien, John Mooney and Gary Wilson lifted the top Associate side from 117-5 in 17 overs to 152-7 in 20 overs after the trio added 35 runs off the last 18 balls that, at the end of the day, turned out to be the deciding factor. At the top, captain William Porterfield slapped four fours in a 13-ball 22 while Niall O’Brien hit a four and a six in his 46 that came off 43 balls. For the UAE, fast bowler Qadar Nawaz took 3-23 while Saqib Ali bagged 2-27.
In reply, Saqib Ali led a spirited UAE fight but he ran out of partners before himself becoming the seventh batsman to be dismissed after scoring 63 with the home side needing 37 runs from 23 balls. Saqib struck five four and two sixes in his entertaining 47-ball knock and kept UAE hopes alive in the match after they had lost the top three batsmen at the score of 17. At the half-way stage, the UAE was 70-5, while after 15 overs they reached 108-5 before losing their way. Ireland fast bowler Alex Cusack, who was later adjudged Man-of-the-Match, was the pick of bowlers when he finished with figures of 3-19 while Andre Botha and Peter Connell took two wickets each conceding 21 and 30 runs, respectively.