T20 WC: New Zealand edge Ireland to keep semifinal race intense

ADELAIDE: Skipper Kane Williamson led the charge of Kiwi batting with a sensational 61 off 35 in their final game of the Super 12s to steer New Zealand to a convincing 35-run win against Ireland to keep them well in the race for the final four of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. 

Ireland pacer Josh Little grabbed the second hat trick of the tournament in the penultimate over of the first innings since New Zealand went for an all-out attack throughout the game in order to strengthen their run rate.

New Zealand, moved to the top of the Group 1 standings with 7 points after they played all their Super 12s matches, meanwhile, England and Australia have five points apiece and occupy second and third spots, respectively, with one game remaining for each side.

Set to chase 186, Ireland were restricted to 150/9 in the allotted 20 overs despite a flourishing 62-run opening stand between Irish veteran Paul Stirling and skipper Andy Balbirnie in eight overs. 

Spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner, however, bowled on tight lines in the middle to force a batting collapse as Ireland lost five wickets between the 9th and the 15th for the addition of mere 34 runs.

Santner provided the first breakthrough to the Kiwis as he bowled out skipper Balbirnie after he scored 30 off 25 while Sodhi struck down Stirling (37 off 27) in the very next over.

Pacer Lockie Ferguson, on the other hand, remained the leading wicket-taker for the side as he bagged three while Tim Southee had two scalps as the duo ran through the lower order.

Earlier, Skipper Kane smashed five boundaries and two sixes during his blistering knock to steer his side to a dominant position in the game.

Ireland, however, rebounded at the death as Little struck down skipper Williamson, James Neesham and Mitchel Santner on three consecutive deliveries in the penultimate over.

Openers Fin Allen and Devon Conway provided a solid start to Kiwis as they raised a 52-run partnership in just 34 balls before Mark Adair dismissed Allen after he scored 32 off 18, including five boundaries and six. 

Williamson then joined the other opener on the crease and the two batters raised another strong stand of 44 runs before Gareth Delany got rid of Conway (28 off 33) in the 12th over.

No 4 batter Glenn Phillips chipped in with 17 off 9 while all-rounder Daryl Mitchell contributed with an unbeaten 31 off 21 as New Zealand finished on high despite sensational death bowling by Little.