Blistering half-centuries from Gareth Delany and Andy Balbirnie helped Ireland to a superb four-wicket victory over Scotland in Dublin on Tuesday.
After Scotland, who scored 252/3 against the Netherlands on Monday, won the toss and set Ireland a target of 194 to win in 20 overs, Delany got Ireland off to a flying start by scoring 52 from 28 deliveries.
Playing in just his third international match, Delany opened in the absence of Paul Stirling and put on 57 for the first wicket in just 4.1 overs with Kevin O’Brien (17).
Balbirnie (64 from 32) was dismissed by Richie Berrington with another 28 runs needed to complete an impressive run chase, and it was left to debutant Harry Tector (21) and captain Gary Wilson (13) to finish the game off.
Here are five talking points following the action.
1. Is Boyd Rankin still Ireland’s main man?
At 35, former Warwickshire seamer Boyd Rankin still seems to be Ireland’s most effective pace bowler in white ball cricket and picked up figures of 3/29 from his four overs at Malahide.
Rankin has been able to focus on T20 since the start of August with a spell in England with Derbyshire, and although that didn’t go to plan in terms of wickets, it seems he has rhythm in this form and that was on full display against Scotland.
While the majority of bowlers went the distance (with the exception of Gareth Delany), Rankin kept his economy down to 7.25 and bowled more dot balls (nine) than any of his colleagues.
With the likes of Mark Adair and David Delany coming through the ranks now, Rankin remains the go-to man with his control and is able to make things happen, dismissing both Kyle Coetzer and Ollie Hairs before they could do more damage.
2. Gareth Delany has a big role to play over the next couple of months
With Jacob Mulder set to miss next month’s World Twenty20 qualifying campaign in the UAE, Gareth Delany is Ireland’s only real leg-spin option now and has a big role to play as the men in green look to book their place in Australia next year.
The 22-year-old was superb against Scotland, collecting his first two international wickets and with spinner-friendly conditions in the Middle East, he is set to have an even bigger impact during the qualifiers.
It’s very promising for Irish fans that Delany stepped up to the challenge against a superb Scottish batting line-up that will undoubtedly light up the main World Cup competition after they surely qualify in November.
The Leinster Lightning all-rounder also provides power-hitting, be that in the opening role (52 off 28) he performed so well in on Tuesday or coming in down the order with a few overs to go.
3. Cobwebs blown out for Ireland
Ireland were sloppy in the field at points on Tuesday and bowled too many extras (eight wides) in their 20 overs, but hopefully they are now back in gear and will show improvements on Wednesday against the Netherlands.
They have been playing a series of Inter-Squad matches between a squad of 25 at YMCA Cricket Club but that is a very comfortable environment and obviously isn’t anywhere near replicating the pace of an international match.
With the second T20 Festival in Bready abandoned without a ball being bowled in August, a lot of the squad are short on competitive 20-over matches in the past couple of months and this will have got them back into the swing of things.
Graham Ford’s men will need to show some improvements on the bowling side of things on Wednesday as they continue to build up to the most important stage of the year.
4. Euro T20 Slam shambles cost some players more than money
While the Euro T20 Slam was a brilliant opportunity for our local players to earn good money while getting the experience of competing alongside proven international performers, it cost some something bigger – opportunity.
Looking at the players that were set to play in a T20 franchise competition that was scheduled for three countries over three weekends before it was farcically cancelled two weeks before it was due to start, the likes of Greg Thompson and Josh Little have been excluded from a 15-man squad for this tri-series.
The Euro T20 Slam would have offered both (and the others included) a big chance to state their case for a spot at the World Twenty20 qualifiers, so the shambles that ensued has cost many players an opportunity to prove themselves.
Thompson’s dropping is a very surprising one considering he scored 32 in his last innings against Zimbabwe, registered 757 runs for Waringstown at a strike-rate of 122.35 and it wasn’t too long ago he showed his limited-over prowess for the Northern Knights.
5. Ireland’s batting line-up so powerful and exciting
While the fielding and bowling was below-par at times, the batting was absolutely superb and the current line-up is dynamic.
Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling will be the opening partnership going into the qualifiers, but Gareth Delany showed he is more than capable of stepping up to the top of the order if needed.
Andy Balbirnie is the perfect man to come in at three with his ability to stabilise an innings if an early wicket falls but is also able to continue scoring at a rapid rate if set a platform like he was on Tuesday.
With the likes of Lorcan Tucker, Shane Getkate and Mark Adair to follow, the Irish selectors will be delighted at their options and the ease in which they chased down a big total.