Sunday, May 19, 2024

Dropped catches cost Ireland dear as Pakistan hit back with a vengeance

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Ireland (193-7, 20 overs) (Lorcan Tucker 51; Shaheen Afridi 3-49) lose to Pakistan (195-3, 16.5 overs)(Fakhar Zaman 78, Mohammad Rizwan 75; Graham Hume 1-32) by seven wickets.

After falling to what was seen back home as an embarrassing defeat on Friday, Pakistan flexed their muscle in response, quite literally blowing Ireland away in with a dominant seven-wicket victory on Sunday evening.

Ireland started well with the bat, Lorcan Tucker’s half-century helping them to a healthy total of 193. In the field, Ireland’s previous excellence deserted them, a pair of dropped chances proving costly as Fakhar Zaman (78) and Mohammad Rizwan (75 not out) powered Pakistan to victory in lightning quick time inside 17 overs.

While Tucker’s effort topped Ireland’s scorecard, the run-scoring burden was shared across the line-up after Pakistan won the toss and chose to field. Andrew Balbirnie (16) and Paul Stirling (11) both found early boundaries but failed to hang around for long. Shaheen Afridi struck twice in the same over as Ireland’s openers picked out fielders trying to go over the top.

Pakistan thought they hard a third scalp in quick succession when Harry Tector was given out LBW to a ball which kept low. The third umpire spotted Naseem overstepping, the no ball promptly given.

Tector looked to make full use of the lifeline, driving twice in the same over for back-to-back boundaries. That would be the high point of his innings as he battled thereafter, continually showing his frustration when picking out fielders when boundary opportunities presented themselves. Eventually, the bat turned in his hand when trying to launch Abbas Afridi downtown, Shaheen taking the catch at long-on.

At the other end, Tucker looked more fluid with his strokeplay, albeit only after a strong Pakistan appeal for caught behind was turned down. A sweep over the leg-side was necessary to prevent Imad Wasim from completely dominating the middle overs, while he and Campher gave Ireland a required momentum-boost when taking 21 runs off Shaheen in the 15th over.

That marked the start of Ireland’s acceleration after a sedate enough middle period, consistent with a recurring plan to set up a boundary flurry at the death. George Dockrell found the fence three times in a useful cameo of 15 off eight balls, while Tucker brought up his 50 off his 38th ball faced.

Tucker and Dockrell departed on consecutive deliveries, both succumbing to slower balls, but Gareth Delany picked up the slack, brutalising Mohammad Amir’s 20th over to the tune of 17 runs thanks to a series of powerful shots straight down the ground. That said, Pakistan were rightly aggrieved not to have gone off for rain before that damage was done.

Defending 194, Ireland once again looked threatening with the new ball. Mark Adair removed Saim Ayub in the first over, courtesy of a diving catch from Campher after a shorter delivery stuck in the pitch. Graham Hume, in the side for the injured Barry McCarthy who had a back spasm, struck an over later, inducing an edge behind from Babar Azam off a short, wide delivery.

Fortune deserted Hume thereafter. As Pakistan rebuilt through Rizwan and Fakhar, both batters offered chances in the deep. The first, off Rizwan with Campher bowling, could be attributed to the wet outfield, Hume slipping as the ball in turn slipped out of his hands. Moments later, when Fakhar carved a short ball high into the sky, Hume put down another steepling effort. It was more difficult than the first, but both should have been taken.

The drops were costly. Rizwan brought up his 50 with a maximum off Ben White, while Fakhar followed suit one over later. After punishing Campher, Fakhar laid into Craig Young. The plan to bowl around the wicket to the left-hander only fed his desire to flick and pull towards the clubhouse and over the short boundary. That 13th over cost 21 runs, and Pakistan never looked back.

As Ireland’s bowling imploded, Fakhar and Rizwan were imperious. Yet there was one last scalp as the former departed when Ireland finally held onto a catch courtesy of Gareth Delany – not called upon to bowl given the wet ball – diving forward brilliantly.

That only brought Azam Khan to the crease. His series of blows included arguably the biggest six Clontarf has seen, the shot over the sight screen ending the match. Ireland’s financial coffers were drained significantly by a series of balls lost in the surrounding forestry. Confidence, alongside the bank balance, may also have taken a hit ahead of Tuesday’s decider.

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