Lahore : Andrew Balbirnie stroked a career-best century and also became the seventh Ireland batsman to complete 1,000 ODI runs as the 2009 champions defeated traditional rivals and reigning champions Scotland by 25 runs in a crucial Super Six fixture of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 at the Harare Sports Club on Sunday.
In front of broadcast cameras and a crowd of around 1,500, Balbirnie scored 105, his second career century, and Niall O’Brien contributed 70 in his 99th ODI as the two batsmen put on 138 runs for the third wicket before Kevin O’Brien’s 27-ball 46 runs cameo lifted Ireland to 271 for nine after they were sent in to bat.
Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer (61, 70b, 7×4, 1×6) played some delightful strokes to provide his side a flying start and his departure at the score of 112 seemed to be a setback, but fighting knocks from Richie Berrington (44), Safyaan Sharif (34), Mark Watt (31) and a 10-ball cameo of 14 by Brad Wheal allowed Scotland to reach 246 in 47.4 overs.
Ireland’s victory means they remain in the hunt for a place in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. They now have four points with one match against Afghanistan (on 23 March) remaining, while Scotland remain on five points with a match against the Windies (on 21 March) in hand.
Zimbabwe lead the points table with five points and meet the Windies on Monday in a match which will strengthen their chances of qualifying for the World Cup provided they beat the two-time former world champions. In the scenario of the Windies winning the match, the tournament will remain wide open and any two of the five leading sides can qualify for the ICC’s pinnacle 50-over tournament which will be held in England and Wales from 30 May to 14 July.
Balbirnie exuded satisfaction after collecting his Player of the Match award.
“I tried to be positive and busy at the start, quite compact, got off the mark as soon as possible and tried to rotate the strike, that’s what I tried to do throughout my innings. It certainly was not a highlights package, I had to get the nitty-gritty stuff and a lot of singles. But I come away with a hundred in a must-win game, that’s very satisfying,” he said.
“It was not that easy a pitch to get in on, so the longer I was there, the easier it was for guys like Niall and Kevin, and they got a run-a-ball or more, so I just thought I could bat as long and get a score and others can come and bat positively and that is what happened.