15 January 2010

Ireland lost their opening encounter in the Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand, going down to a five wicket defeat by South Africa.

Ireland lost what was to prove a crucial toss in overcast conditions and a pitch which contained early morning moisture. That said, the South African opening attack of Graham Hume and Rabian Engelbrecht gave precious little away, with Hume being particularly parsimonious in conceding just 5 runs in his opening seven over spell.

Ireland drafted in Stuart Thompson to open the innings, but he made just six before being yorked by Engelbrecht. Skipper Andy Balbirnie made a solitary single from 24 deliveries, before his patience ran out and a mistimed hook saw him give Smith the easiest of catches at midwicket, again off Engelbrecht.

Senior Irish international Paul Stirling played some lovely shots as he made 19, including three boundaries in an over off Engelbrecht, but he swatted a baseball style smash straight back into the midriff of a gleeful Kirk Werners, and Ireland were in serious trouble at 33 for 3.

The situation became even worse when the in-form James Shannon went soon after for just one, and it seemed an early finish could well be a distinct possibility.

However Ben Ackland and Lee Nelson had other ideas, as the pair added  117 in 28.1 overs. Both played very sensible and at times stylish cricket, displaying a wide array of strokes. Nelson, dropped down the order to accommodate Thompson, scored 55 off 75 balls including 4 fours and a six – a beefy pull over deep midwicket.

Ackland was slightly more sedate, top scoring with 66 from 107 balls, again finding the boundary rope four times. Nelson fell in the first over of the batting power play, hitting a drive straight to Ackermann at mid off, and shortly afterwards, Ackland departed, bowled by a fullish delivery from Wernars.

Graham McDonnell (24*), and Stuart Poynter (25*) added 45 in just 26 balls, with a little gem of a partnership, as they scurried between the wickets, and also found the occasional boundary – indeed Poynetr smashed the last ball of the innings over midwicket for six, to give his side a final total of 216 for 6 – untold riches after the dreadful start.

What concerned Ireland was the docile nature of the pitch in the latter half of their innings, and their worries were confirmed as South Africa came steaming at them when they batted.

Left hander Dominick Hendricks went on the offensive, and helped by some wayward bowling, saw South Africa race to 67 without loss in 11 overs. That total was boosted by an unacceptable number of wides – nine coming in the first 8 overs, and 21 in total. There was also a non ball conceded, which was further punished by being hit for six. You can’t afford to be that generous if you hope to beat a Test playing nation.

The introduction of Stuart Thompson into the attack brought immediate dividends, as he removed both Hendricks and Richards in quick succession, and at 70 for 2 Ireland were back in the frame.

Colin Ackermann (19) played some glorious shots before being trapped lbw by Balbirnie, with the total on 109. Stephan Smith and Malcolm Nofal shared a stand of 57 in 63 balls, with both playing some powerful drives through the covers and down the ground.

The introduction of the batting power play didn’t have the desired effect for the South Africans, as Paul Stirling dismissed both Nofal and Chetty in the space of five deliveries, to give Ireland an outside chance of victory with 47 still needed.

Stefan Smith survived a couple of close lbw appeals, and one drive just evaded a despairing Balbirnie at extra cover. He survived, and went on to score a match winning 67 not out, which came from 99 balls, and contained 6 fours and a six.

He was given good support by Kirk Werners (21*), as they ultimately coasted to the win, with five wickets and 6.2 overs to spare.

Ireland are next in action on Sunday, when they play Australia at the same venue.

At Queenstown, Ireland U19 lost to South Africa by five wickets

Ireland U19 216-6 (50 overs), (B Ackland 66, L Nelson 55, S Poynter 25*, G McDonnell 24*, K Wernars 2-42, R Engelbrecht 2-54) lost to S Africa U19 220-5 (43.2 overs), (S Smith 67*, D Hendricks 47, M Nofal 32, K Wernars 21*, S Thompson 2-29, P Stirling 2-42).

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