Once they had beaten Jersey at Malahide in the morning, captain William Porterfield and his side needed the high-flying Papua New Guinea to lose to the USA at the same venue and Namibia to fall to Hong Kong in Clontarf, in order to top the group. But given the form guide, no one in the Ireland camp really thought that was going to happen and they were already mentally preparing for the play-offs.
After that, PNG lost wickets at regular intervals and, despite a late surge from Mahuru Dai, never regained the initiative, eventually falling short by 18 runs.
Meanwhile, over in Clontarf, Irfan Ahmed smashed Namibia’s bowlers with a brutal display of power hitting, rocketing to 98 off just 55 balls, including nine fours and four sixes, as Hong Kong put up a massive 197-8. Namibia’s openers, Gerrie Snyman and Stephen Baard, are no strangers to a boundary or two themselves so when both fell with only 23 runs on the board, it didn’t look good for the Africans. And so it proved as they were all out for just 114.
All that played into Ireland’s hands and a delighted, if a little surprised, Porterfield said: “It was always our goal to top the group coming into the competition but this was not the way we wanted to go about it because we lost two games along the way. But we’re top of the group and we’re in the semi-final.
“Some of our performances have not been what we wanted them to be. We talked about that in the build-up to today and we certainly played better against Jersey. It’s not the way we thought we would top the group but nonetheless we’ll take it. Our performance today, particularly with the bat, was pretty good and we just have to keep building on that towards the weekend.”
So, as well as knowing the first two qualifiers, Tuesday’s crucial play-off fixtures have also been finalised. Hong Kong’s comprehensive victory over Namibia means it finished second in Group A on net run-rate and will play Group B’s third-placed team, Afghanistan, while Namibia will take on Netherlands with both games taking place at Malahide.
PNG finished fourth in the group and will proceed to a last-chance play-off on Thursday along with its Group B counterpart, Oman. The teams to lose out in Group A are USA, Jersey and Nepal, joining Group B’s UAE, Kenya and Canada on their respective planes home.
Earlier, a little bit of history was made in the final over of Jersey’s innings as Ireland medium-pacer John Mooney took his country’s first Twenty20 hat-trick and only the fourth for Ireland in all matches since 1855. After what had been a solid start from Jersey’s top three Peter Gough, Edward Farley and Jonty Jenner, with the score on 88-1 there followed a stunning collapse as Ireland’s bowlers turned up the heat and the Channel Islanders lost their remaining nine wickets for 34 runs in less than seven overs.
A half-century from Paul Stirling ensured Ireland chased down the 123-run target with a minimum of fuss, losing just three wickets along the way.
Afterwards, Jersey captain Peter Gough was clearly disappointed with how the game went but was still proud of his team’s performance. He said: “We will take loads of positives from this tournament – we have learned a huge amount as a side. We’ve gained experience in how to play different types of bowlers, different wickets, how to structure a Twenty20 innings. Every player has gone through a real journey here. It doesn’t always come easy every day. We’ve had to work really hard and the players have done a huge amount when we haven’t been playing, which is fantastic.
“It has been the best cricketing experience of our lives so far, unbelievable. It has been great to have quite a few spectators here cheering us on. We’re so happy they came. To have 50-odd people here cheering us on has been great. We hope we did them proud… We will go away and put a lot of what we’ve learned here into practice. We will refocus and look to keep pushing forward, always trying to improve.”
At Malahide: Jersey 122 all out, 19.5 overs (Peter Gough 42, Jonty Jenner 26; Paul Stirling 3-16, John Mooney 3-20, Alex Cusack 3-26)
Ireland 123-3, 16.4 overs (Paul Stirling 55, Andrew Balbirnie 32 not out; Ben Stevens 2-20)
Ireland won by seven wickets
At Malahide: USA 147-6, 20 overs (Nicholas Standford 38 not out, Akeem Dodson 38, Fahad Babar 30; Charles Amini 2-20)
PNG 129-9, 20 overs (Sese Bau 26; Muhammad Ghous 2-27, Timil Patel 2-32)
USA won by 18 runs
At Castle Avenue: Hong Kong 197-8, 20 overs (Irfan Ahmed 98, Jamie Atkinson 28; Gerrie Snyman 4-31)
Namibia 114 all out, 15.1 overs (Sarel Burger 28; Nadeem Ahmed 5-12, Haseeb Amjad 2-22)
Hong Kong won by 83 runs
Practice day. Play-offs take place on Tuesday.