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Ireland bullied by dominant South Africa as they slump to first World Cup defeat

Ireland slip to fourth in Pool B after this morning’s loss.

There wasn't too much to smile about in Canberra as Ireland tasted defeat
There wasn't too much to smile about in Canberra as Ireland tasted defeat
Image: Rob Griffith

IRELAND SUFFERED THEIR first defeat of the World Cup as a dominant and ruthless South Africa had too much firepower for Phil Simmons’ side in Canberra.

The 201-run loss doesn’t derail Ireland’s quest to reach the quarter-finals but the margin of defeat means their Net-Run Rate, which could determine which teams progress, took a significant dent.

South Africa’s much-vaunted top order tucked into the Irish bowlers as they plundered 411-4 before Dale Steyn and the Protea’s formidable seam attack broke the back of Ireland’s daunting chase.

Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis were the chief orchestrators, both scoring stellar centuries, as Ireland had no answer to a scintillating display of attacking batting.

In reply, Ireland slipped to 48-5 and faced the distinct possibility of being on the wrong end of the biggest ODI defeat of all-time. But Andrew Balbirnie and Kevin O’Brien both showed resolve to weather the initial storm and ensure it wasn’t the procession it had looked like being.

Balbirnie scored his maiden World Cup half-century but once he picked out deep square-leg, Ireland’s race was run. The damage had already been done.

Cricket WCup South Africa Ireland Balbirnie showed great determination to score a defiant half-century Source: Rob Griffith

Ireland’s usually disciplined and steadfast attack was unable to bowl with any sort of control in the face of an onslaught from Amla – who top-scored with 159 – and Du Plessis as South Africa scored 400 for the second consecutive match, becoming the first team ever to do so.

It was just two runs shy of the World Cup record scored by India against Bermuda eight years ago and was also the highest total Ireland have conceded, beating the 402 scored against the Boys in Green by New Zealand in 2008.

It was always going to be a stiff challenge, if not impossible, for Ireland to overhaul that total but any hopes quickly faded as Steyn ripped through the top-order with pace and bounce.

Balbirnie and O’Brien dropped anchor, however, and ensured Ireland weren’t blown away inside the opening overs while some late-order resistance pushed the Boys in Green past the 200 mark.

It was all about salvaging something from an otherwise damaging night.

The irrepressible Amla had ground Ireland into submission with a combination of elegance and guile.

It was his third 150 in One-Day Internationals and highest score as he and Du Plessis combined to put on 247 for the second wicket – the fifth highest partnership in the history of the World Cup.

Cricket WCup South Africa Ireland Hashim Amla punished Ireland as he exhibited all his class in Canberra Source: Rob Griffith

It could have been a whole lot different, however.

After John Mooney removed Quinton de Kock with a delivery that moved away from the left-hander and took the finest of edges through to Gary Wilson, Amla received a reprieve whilst on just 10.

O’Brien’s first delivery, of what turned out to be another expensive spell, was clipped straight to mid-wicket by Amla but Ed Joyce was unable to hold onto a relatively straightforward chance.

You can’t afford to give a player of that calibre a second life and Amla took full advantage. He smashed 16 boundaries and four sixes before David Miller and Rilee Rishouw added further momentum to an innings which saw 200 runs bludgeoned in the final 15 overs.

Thereafter, South Africa were able to operate in cruise control and go through the motions.

Ireland now travel south to Hobart where they face Zimbabwe on Saturday for what will be a defining fixture in both sides’ campaign. Having won two of their three games, victory this weekend would be a significant step towards the quarter-finals for Ireland.

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Ryan Bailey

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