Ireland’s hopes of reaching the World Cup quarter-finals suffered a blow as India sealed top spot in Pool B with a fifth straight win in the tournament.Ireland came into the match knowing that a point would see them qualify.Despite an opening stand of 89 between William Porterfield and Paul Stirling and 75 from Niall O’Brien, their 259 total was never likely to be enough. So it proved as Shikhar Dhawan (100) and Rohit Sharma (64) helped India to a comfortable eight-wicket victory. The margin of defeat is a reality check for Ireland, who have performed well above expectation in this tournament, claiming three wins (two against Test-playing nations) to give them six points and genuine hope of reaching the last eight.They can still do so, but they will need to beat Pakistan in their final pool game or gain a point should the fixture be rained off.Much like their game with South Africa, in which they conceded 411 runs before being bowled out for 210, the gulf in class between the sides in Hamilton was vast.They started well, with Porterfield (67) and Stirling (42) using the pace of the opening bowlers well to amass an encouraging opening stand and suggest a competitive total over 300 was a possibility.But India’s switch to spin bowling halted their progress as Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravinda Jadeja and Suresh Raina frustrated the top order and claimed the important wickets of Ed Joyce (bowled by Raina) and Andy Balbirnie (caught by Mohammed Shami off Ashwin).Niall O’Brien offered resistance and hit well but when he and brother Kevin both fell to Shami, Ireland’s hopes of a decent score disappeared, with the returning Indian pace bowlers cleaning up the tail.It was the fourth time India had bowled out a team in this high-scoring World Cup but Ireland’s consolation is that they made the highest total against MS Dhoni’s side. Ireland had two opportunities to gain a foothold early in the India innings as Dhawan twice presented difficult catching chances off the bowling of John Mooney but the bowler was unable to hold on to the first and the second eluded the grasp of Porterfield at square leg.After that, India were ruthless as Dhawan and Sharma amassed 174 before the latter chopped on to his own stumps from World Cup debutant Stuart Thompson.Thompson, whose first over went for 18 before he was hastily withdrawn, also claimed the wicket of Dhawan, who miscued one to Porterfield at deep cover, but these were the only high points of the innings for Ireland as Virat Kohli (44) and Ajinkya Rahane (33) saw the reigning champions home with 79 balls to spare.
June 1, 2021