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T20 World Cup: Ireland continue their impressive run with sensational showing on a beautiful day

When Ireland were just 14 runs away from securing their Super 12 spot and brushing aside the West Indies, the DJ at the Bellerive Oval was playing U2’s blockbuster song ‘Beautiful Day’ in the backdrop of their highly vocal supporters cheering loudly for Andrew Balbirnie & Co to wrap the match quickly.

Ireland would eventually hunt down 147 with 15 balls remaining, with Lorcan Tucker finishing off the chase in style, skipping down the pitch and converting a half-volley from left-arm fast bowler Obed McCoy into a loft over cover for four to give his side the ticket to Super 12.

What really stood out from Ireland’s drubbing of the West Indies, who were a pale shadow of their two-time championship winning self, was the manner in which the nine-wicket win was executed. On the pitch not offering much pace, Ireland executed their plans of getting West Indies batters caught at longer boundaries and leg-spinner Gareth Delany choking them very well in the middle overs with his 3/16.

With the bat, Balbirnie, Paul Stirling and Tucker came out all guns blazing, latching on to any error from the West Indies bowlers’ and dispatching the balls over the boundary fences to indeed make Friday a beautiful day for Ireland and their ever-supportive, vociferous contingent as the side will now lock horns with the big teams in Group 1 of Super 12 stage for the first time since 2009.

"It is a big thing. The World Cups are changing. The 50-over game is changing. We haven’t had much opportunities in those World Cups of late. But I think certainly to be in this next phase against the best teams in the world in front of hopefully big crowds."

"That crowd tonight were pretty amazing, albeit it was most of our parents and wives and girlfriends just roaring their heads off. It was a pretty special day to be an Irish cricketer, and hopefully we can have many more of them over the next couple weeks," said Balbirnie in the post-match press conference.

In the chase, veteran opener Stirling stood up when it mattered the most, being the chief architect of a mind-blowing chase for Ireland at Hobart. Before Friday’s match, Stirling had batted 15 times across his seven T20 World Cup appearances, making just 245 runs, averaging 18.84, with only one fifty.

But, against the West Indies, Stirling finally brought out his best version in a global tournament. After getting off the mark with a top-edge flying over slip off Obed McCoy in the opening over, Stirling fiercely swept Akeal Hosein for four before powerfully clobbering Alzarri Joseph for six over deep mid-wicket.

He continued to feast on Joseph in the final over of power-play – a top-edge flew over vacant slip cordon and on the very next ball, sliced through backward point to make it back-to-back fours.

After Balbirnie fell as the 73-run opening stand ended, Stirling ensured Ireland didn’t lose their way by dispatching Joseph for a majestic six over deep square leg and got his 21st T20I fifty by placing a late dab past third man for four. He also gave a glimpse of his innovative stroke-play, moving across and scooping Joseph over short fine leg for four to be unbeaten on 66.

"I don’t think I’ve ever doubted Paul. He is such a classy player, person, key member of this team, and will be for a long time, has been for a long time. He’s just a huge big-game player, and today was a perfect example of someone to step up in a chase, and he was the man to do it," added Balbirnie.

This time last year, Ireland had made a disappointing exit from the first round in 2021 T20 World Cup. With things looking bleak for them in T20Is, the appointment of Heinrich Malan as head coach in January slowly brought about a change in their approach towards playing the shortest format and embrace the aggressive line to be in sync with evolving times in the world.

In their home summer, they lost to India, New Zealand and South Africa despite coming close to wins on a few occasions, before succeeding in beating Afghanistan 3-2 at home. While the defeats hurt, they were essential in Ireland’s learning curve.

Though weather disrupted their training matches against Randwick Petersham Cricket Club, training there in Sydney added more to their experience of playing 22 T20Is between last year’s World Cup and this year’s tournament, culminating in Ireland reaching Super 12 now.

"There was a lot of emotion because we’ve had kind of a long 12 months of trying to find out how we want to play this game, and it’s worked sometimes and hasn’t worked other times."

"But to kind of pull out two performances like we have against Scotland and West Indies when it really counts, certainly as, kind of a senior player and a captain, I’m very proud of the way everyone has gone about it."

"We don’t really know where we’re going to be next, but we know we’re going to be in the Super 12s, and that’s huge for this group," added Balbirnie.

In the 2015 ODI World Cup, Ireland had pulled off a surprise by beating West Indies. Six years later, at Hobart, they defeated the same opposition albeit in the T20 World Cup on the back of experiencing a roller-coaster of emotions and results in the last 12 months.

With Super 12 challenge now in the reckoning for Ireland, Balbirnie & Co might be taking some inspiration from U2’s Beautiful Day yet again, especially with "Touch me. Take me to that other place. Reach me, I know I’m not a hopeless case."

<br>–IANS<br>nr/inj

CELEBRITY GALLERY

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

Sidharth Shukla

Kriti Sanon

Shehnaaz Gill

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