Monday, 8 June 2009

Trent Johnston strikes early for Ireland

By Rossa McDermott

Ireland’s O’Brien brothers today carried their country past Bangladesh to the Super Eights stage of the ICC World Twenty20.

Kevin and Niall hit 79 runs between them at Trent Bridge as Ireland passed 137 for eight, with 10 balls and six wickets to spare, inflicting Bangladesh’s second defeat in three days and sending the Tigers out of the tournament.

For Ireland, it was famous confirmation of the superiority they demonstrated over these same Test-playing opponents in a 74-run win at the World Cup in the Caribbean two years ago.

They have since come up short in a three-match one-day international series in Dhaka - but with eight of the class of 2007 still staffing today’s team, there could be no argument that Ireland had again deserved their victory on the big stage.

Will Porterfield’s men restricted Bangladesh’s strokemakers thanks largely to the efforts of his predecessor as captain Trent Johnston, who took three top-order wickets for 20 runs after Ireland had chosen to bowl first on a cloudy afternoon.

Set a target which always looked feasible, Ireland were not always on course with the bat.
But the impetus provided by O’Brien the elder at number three, and then reignited by brother Kevin - from a tricky situation at 89 for four in the 15th over - got them home with unexpected comfort.

The early loss of Jeremy Bray, caught at point off a leading edge at Mashrafe Mortaza, brought Northamptonshire wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien to the crease.
He had injured himself trying to stop a single in Bangladesh’s innings and soon needed a runner. But his timing and power were unhindered as he kick-started an Ireland reply which had stuttered to only nine for one after three overs.

O’Brien dominated a 55-run second-wicket stand with his captain, hitting three leg-side sixes from five balls of one Mortaza over.

It was a significant blow therefore when O’Brien holed out at long-off from the left-arm spin of Shakib al Hasan - and after Porterfield had poked a catch back to Abdur Razzak and Gary Wilson was caught at extra-cover, the Ireland chase looked in trouble.

Trent Johnston wheels away in delight at taking a wicket during his impressive spell of 3-20 that put Ireland on top

A second O’Brien made a mockery of that suggestion, though, with some wonderfully clean striking which brought him four fours and two sixes from only 17 balls.
It was a fitting culmination too that, on the ground where the 25-year-old all-rounder has been on trial for Nottinghamshire this summer, he should conclude the match in style - by hitting Rubel Hossain clear over mid-off for the winning boundary.

Bangladesh’s innings had never established the required momentum.

Their coach Jamie Siddons had warned after their opening 25-run defeat against India here on Saturday night that it was time to stop making “silly” mistakes.

There were several in evidence, though - starting when Junaid Siddique got underneath an attempted hit to leg for a skier which was very well held in the ring behind square by Bray.

Mohammad Ashraful had already been dropped at slip off Johnston when he steered an action replay straight to O’Brien in the same position - and there was no escape this time.

Shakib failed to clear the shorter leg-side boundary, and opener Tamim Iqbal was fourth out to a comedy run-out.

Niall O’Brien produced an alert piece of wicket keeping to stump Mahmud Ullah, who lifted his foot after missing an attempted front-foot pull at Alex Cusack.

It would have been 70 for six had either Boyd Rankin, on the fence, or Johnston, running back, caught another skier to see off Mushfiqur Rahim.
But it did not look as if anyone was going to take control of the situation for Bangladesh until Mortaza clubbed medium-pacer Cusack for two off-side sixes among 20 runs in the final over of the innings.

By then, O’Brien had injured himself. But neither that setback nor Mashrafe’s late hitting was enough to stop Ireland.

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