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Ireland unable to contain rampant India as race for quarters goes down to the wire

Phil Simmons’ side suffered their second defeat of the World Cup.

Ireland were outclassed in Hamilton by a clinical Indian side
Ireland were outclassed in Hamilton by a clinical Indian side
Image: Ross Setford

IRELAND MAY HAVE scored the highest total against India at this World Cup but their score of 259 was nowhere near enough as the world champions knocked the runs off with consummate ease to stroll to a eight-wicket victory in Hamilton.

It was a case of what might have been for Phil Simmons’ side after a whirlwind start with the bat had provided them with the platform to give India a far sterner test then what materialised.

For Ireland, however, all eyes are on Adelaide on Sunday as the scramble to qualify for the quarter-finals will go down to the wire with the showdown against Pakistan now a winner-takes-all contest. The equation, despite today’s loss, remains the same: just one more point is required to go through.

And they’ll know improvements will need to be made if they are to have any chance of securing progression.

William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien both struck half-centuries but Ireland were suffocated by India’s spinners and lost a spate of wickets, including five for just 21 runs, which sucked the momentum out of an innings that had started so brightly.

Cricket WCup India Ireland There wasn't much too cheer about for Ireland but all is not lost Source: Ross Setford

259 was never going to be enough on a flat track, quick outfield and short boundaries at Seddon Park and India were able to flex their muscles in a straightforward run-chase which centered around a century from opener Shikhar Dhawan.

He was dropped twice, first by John Mooney off his own bowling and then by Porterfield at backward point when just on 5. By the time he was eventually caught by Porterfield, off Stuart Thompson, the damage had been done.

Dhawan struck 16 boundaries including five maximums as he cashed-in on Ireland’s generosity and was well-supported by Rohit Sharma who scored a half-century of his own in an opening stand worth 174.

None of Ireland’s batsmen could construct a similar partnership.

Porterfield and Paul Stirling played with positive intent against the new ball, combining to add 60 inside the opening powerplay, but as soon as MS Dhoni brought his arsenal of slower bowlers into the attack, the complexion of the innings changed.

The opening gusto was soon replaced by a period of stagnation as India, led by Ravi Ashwin, curbed Ireland’s progress and wrestled back control of this contest – they never gave Ireland an opening to get back into it.

Cricket WCup India Ireland Kevin O'Brien scored just one as Ireland threw away a good position Source: Ross Setford

O’Brien tried to reignite the innings with a typically pugnacious and industrious fifty, his second of the tournament, but Ireland slumped from 206-3 to 227-8 in the space of four overs to undo the promising start.

Stirling chipped Ashwin straight to long-on for a brisk 42 before, an over later, Ed Joyce was undone trying to force Suresh Raina through the offside.

Porterfield consolidated as he and O’Brien looked to take the sting out of India’s riposte but the stranglehold eventually told as the captain, having reached fifty, tried to push things along and got a leading edge to be caught at mid-on off Mohammed Shami.

While Ashwin’s guile was unnerving at one end, Shami – who has taken more ODI wickets than any other bowler since the start of 2014 – exposed the Irish middle order with three wickets including that of Kevin O’Brien for just one.

For the second game running, Ireland batted first as Porterfield decided the best way of toppling one of the game’s superpowers was by landing the first blows with the bat.

He and Stirling certainly delivered up-top but once Niall O’Brien, on 75 having hit the accelerator button with a succession of boundaries, clipped Shami to square-leg, Ireland’s hopes of reaching 300 faded.

Cricket WCup India Ireland Captain William Porterfield scored his first fifty of the tournament Source: Ross Setford

After a quick turnaround from the narrow win over Zimbabwe on Saturday, the management decided to make one change with all-rounder Thompson included at the expense of Andy McBrine.

On his World Cup debut, Thompson’s dismissal – run-out for just two after he was sold down the river by John Mooney – epitomised the haphazard nature of Ireland’s collapse.

His day didn’t get much better when his opening over was plundered for 18 runs by Dhawan but he returned strongly to take two wickets. It was too little, too late though as India assured themselves of top-spot in Pool B with 13 overs to spare.

Ireland still have work to do if they are to join them in the last eight. Sunday is now the biggest game in this country’s cricketing history: a World Cup quarter-final is on the line.

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Ryan Bailey

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