|Porterfield and Johnston lead Ireland romp|
|Monday, 20 April 2009 11:43|
IF there was any doubt that Ireland might take their foot off the pedal in an essentially meaningless final, Trent Johnston and his captain William Porterfield ensured they were focused on the trophy as they thrashed Canada in the final of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers at Centurion Park.
Johnston, whose nagging seamers cut through Canada with career-best figures, and Porterfield, who made an unbeaten 104, justified Ireland's standing as the No.1 Associate and the team to beat, as they have been all tournament.
With the rest of his squad roaring Ireland's Call, an understandably elated Porterfield was delighted with his and the team's performances.
"Obviously we qualified a few days ago, but to come here and win the final - which was our objective - is absolutely amazing," he told Cricinfo. "And the way we did it was fantastic. I've been feeling in fantastic nick.
"The way we've bowled in the last ten bowlers, bar today, has been fantastic. We've improved game to game and our fielding has improved, and the first ten overs in our batting have been excellent."
Eighteen days ago Porterfield stamped his and Ireland's mark on the tournament with a brutal 101 to beat Scotland.
A little under three weeks later, he finished with another beautifully crafted and dominant innings. Chasing a meagre 186, he and Gary Wilson were solid and assured, laying down a base on which to launch their chase later in the innings.
Wilson took advantage of anything short - there was plenty - smiting Henry Osinde over the top for six. He fell for a well-made 38, spooning to third-man, but Porterfield and Niall O'Brien then took total command.
Ireland's captain has impressed many in this tournament, not just through his assured batting but his calm leadership. With O'Brien for company, he took apart Canada whose fielding regressed from reasonably proficient to, at times, hopelessly average. A fierce slap past point brought up Porterfield's fifty from 80 balls and the milestone prompted his charge against Sunil Dhaniram, who bowled far too short. The firmest of off-drives brought him a boundary, followed by an elegant pick-up over long-on as Ireland reduced the chase to nothing more than stroll in the park against a tired team already thinking of flying home.
Porterfield aside, it was Johnston who really set up Ireland's convincing win with an outstanding display of swing and seam.
His introduction in the ninth over from the West Lane end completely turned the match around and, with his sixth ball, he had Rizwan Cheema edging to Kevin O'Brien at first slip. In his next over, he trapped Ashish Mulla leg-before with one that skidded through low and Canada were tottering on 69 for 3 after wasting a positive opening stand.
Alex Cusack kept things tight from the other end, but Johnston was a persistent threat and found a beauty which cut back on Ian Billcliff to bowl him through the gate. He then followed it up with two wickets in consecutive balls to record his first five-wicket haul in ODIs - and Ireland's best figures - leaving Canada in the hopeless position of 88 for 6.
Ireland were well on top, though Umar Bhatti added 46 to at least help Canada post a total resembling competitiveness.
Nudging singles off his pads and working the ball cleverly into the gaps at midwicket, he gradually began to build partnerships, putting on an entertaining ninth-wicket stand of 51 from 80 deliveries which at least made the total respectable.
Ireland, however, came to South Africa not just to qualify for the World Cup but to get their hands on the trophy and, when O' Brien hit the winning runs with 7.3 overs to spare, at last they could truly celebrate their outstanding performance in Associate cricket's showcase event.
The coaching staff imposed an alcohol ban on the Irish at the start of the tournament, even randomly breathalysing some of the players. Suffice to say, tonight's party will be very long, very hard and richly deserved. (Cricinfo)
|Last Updated on Monday, 20 April 2009 11:44|