All the talk surrounding India’s tour to the UK has been fraught with how they would play England in all three formats. But before that the ‘Men in Blue’ square off against Ireland for two T20Is.
Ireland have played as many as 65 T20Is and have a win-loss record of 27-31 (plus 6 washouts and a tie). However, a bulk of these games have come against Associate Nations. Among the top 10 teams in world cricket currently, Ireland have played 1 T20I each against 7 of them while they’ve played 4 against the Windies and 5 against Bangladesh (they’ve never played against South Africa in a T20I).
Hence, a large chunk of their outstanding performances by players have come against the Associate teams and may have gone unnoticed. Thus, with the two-match T20I series against India commencing today (June 27), let’s take a look back at some of the memorable performances by Irish players in T20Is.
#5 George Dockrell – 3/16 vs West Indies, Providence (2010)
George Dockrell, who made his international debut as a 17-year-old in 2010, might have the fourth-best figures for Ireland in T20I history (4/20) but he had another memorable outing against West Indies in the 2010 World T20. It was the second game of that World T20 and Ireland had qualified after making it to the finals of the Qualifiers.
Playing just his 6th T20 international game, the then 17-year-old Dockrell stepped up and produced an excellent spell where he gave away just 16 runs and more importantly picked up 3 wickets.
The Dublin-born left-arm spinner came into bowl in the 10th over and started with a quiet 6-run over. West Indies were well placed at 76/2 in 11 overs on what was a sluggish, two-paced surface but they had two set batsmen in the form of Andre Fletcher and Ramnaresh Sarwan. In his next over, Dockrell dismissed both the batsmen to give Ireland a slight edge.
He kept things very tight and didn’t allow the batsmen to get away and on the last ball of his spell, he got the wicket of Narsingh Deonarine to finish with figures of 3/16 in his 4 overs. His spell helped Ireland restrict West Indies to 138 but they couldn’t get going with the bat and were bowled out for 68.
#4 Gary Wilson – 65 vs Scotland, Dubai (2017)
In the semi-final of the Desert T20 Challenge, the current Ireland T20 skipper Gary Wilson produced one of the best knocks in a must-win game for Ireland.
Coming out to bat at No. 5 with Ireland in a good position at 118/3 in the 12th over, he consolidated that position of strength with a wonderful 29-ball 65.
He started off briskly and continued the momentum created by the Ireland top-order as he scored 19 in 10 deliveries. And in no time, he raced off to a 23-ball fifty which was the joint third-fastest by an Irish batsman. His 29-ball knock comprised of 8 fours and 3 sixes as he took Ireland to a huge total of 211 in their 20 overs.
Scotland crumbled under-pressure and were bowled out for 113 as Ireland cruised through to the final of the Desert T20 Challenge. Gary Wilson was awarded the man of the match for his match-winning knock of 65.
#3 Alex Cusack – 4/11 vs West Indies, Kingston (2014)
Alex Cusack who was an Australian born pacer represented Ireland for 8 years before retiring in 2015. He holds the record for the best figures for Ireland in T20 cricket and that came against a quality West Indies side.
In a two-match T20I series, Ireland won the first game and were looking to cause a big upset as they targeted a series win. Ireland won the toss and opted to field first in that second T20I at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica.
The hosts were off to a sedate start as they made 27 in the first four overs before Alex Cusack wreaked havoc. The right-arm pacer came into the attack in the 5th over and sent the Windies openers (Andre Fletcher and Dwayne Smith) back to the hut in consecutive overs. His opening spell figures read 2-1-2-2. He then came back in the death and picked up a couple more wickets (Dinesh Ramdin and Samuel Badree) to finish with outstanding figures of 4/11 in his quota of four overs.
His spell combined with a very good fielding effort helped Ireland restrict West Indies to 96 in their 20 overs and it did seem like the Irishmen would inflict a shock series win. However, a Darren Sammy inspired Windies side produced an excellent display with the ball and in the field to keep Ireland to 85 and eked out an 11-run win.
#2 Paul Stirling – 81 vs Scotland, Deventer (2018)
Paul Stirling is not only the leading run-scorer for Ireland in T20Is but has also scored more 50s than any Irish player. And he holds the record for the highest individual score by an Ireland player in T20Is.
This knock came in Ireland’s last T20I against Scotland in a T20 tri-series in Netherlands. Having lost their two games against Netherlands, the games against Scotland were almost must-win ones.
In their final game of the series, they lost the toss and Scotland batted first. The latter posted 185 in their 20 overs the top three batsmen did the bulk of the scoring.
In reply, Ireland lost 2 wickets in their first 5 overs but Stirling was batting well at the other end. He had raced off to 30 in just 14 deliveries and needed someone to stay with him. He shared a crucial 68-run stand with Simi Singh for the third wicket.
After the departure of Simi Singh, Ireland kept losing wickets but Stirling held one end up and continued batting like a dream. He was able to find boundaries at regular intervals and helped his team keep up with the asking rate. But he was dismissed for a 41-ball 81 in the 18th over with 21 needed off 14 balls.
With 7 to get in the final over, Scotland pacer Safyaan Sharif held his nerve as the match ended in a tie. But Stirling’s 81 is one of the best performances by an Irish batsman in a T20I.
#1 Kevin O’ Brien – 42 and 2/29 vs Netherlands, Sylhet (2014)
There is no doubt that Kevin O’ Brien will go down as one of the best players to have represented Ireland. And his performance against Netherlands at the 2014 World T20 which came in a losing cause is one of the best all-round performances for Ireland in T20 cricket.
In a must-win encounter, Netherlands put Ireland into bat first. The latter were in a spot of bother as they were 88/3 in the 13th over when Kevin O’Brien walked out to bat. The right-handed all-rounder just walked in and changed the tempo of the innings. He struck a superb 16-ball 42 (which comprised of 2 fours and 4 sixes) and in company of Andrew Poynter, he propelled Ireland’s score to 189.
Needing 190 inside 14.2 overs to qualify for the main round, Netherlands got off to a flying start as Peter Borren and Stephan Myburgh went hammer and tongs. But it was O’Brien who brought an end to the high-flying opening stand as he dismissed Borren for 31. He then got the wicket of Logan van Beek to give Ireland a slight advantage.
However, Tom Cooper and Wesley Barresi played brilliant cameos and took Netherlands home in 13.5 overs helping them qualify for the main round