Dubai: Ireland will appear in their third consecutive ICC World T20 after qualifying for the tournament with a comprehensive, nine-wicket victory over Namibia on Saturday.
The win sent Ireland into the final of the ICC World T20 Qualifiers later on Saturday, where they meet Afghanistan to determine the group in which each team will play when the competition starts in September in Sri Lanka. Afghanistan beat Namibia on Thursday, sending them to their second consecutive ICC World T20.
"It's obviously massive," skipper William Porterfield said of the team's ninth straight victory after losing their opener to Namibia.
The Irish beat Namibia by nine wickets to book a place in the ICC World T20 to be held in SL later this year.
"We came into this tournament with the goal of winning. After losing the first game, we were going to have to do it the hard way. We managed to do that up to now. We have to concentrate on the final, which is a big game for us."
Ireland's bowlers again were the stars, restricting Namibia to 94 for 6 before their batsmen rattled up 96 for 1 in reply.
Namibia's openers failed to deliver, as in the team's defeat by Afghanistan, with Louis van der Westhuizen caught by Andrew White off a Trent Johnston delivery for 14 runs and Raymond van Schoor — who was out for a duck against Afghanistan — trapped lbw by Johnston for one run.
After losing wickets at regular intervals, Ian Opperman finished with a flourish, scoring 26 not-out runs, but it was too little, too late. Johnston finished with figures of 2 for 19, while Max Sorensen, the Man of the Match, took 2 for 8 and also bowled two maidens in his four-over spell.
Ireland had little trouble reaching the modest target, with openers Porterfield and Paul Stirling combining for 41 and Stirling finishing with an unbeaten 59 off 32 balls. The Irish reached their target with 59 balls to spare.
"I'm absolutely delighted with my performance," the South African-born Sorensen, who was playing in his first tournament for Ireland, said.
"It's great to be playing for this team, enjoying every second of it," he said. "I told myself I wanted to start well. Luckily, I hit a good rhythm early and hit back at the length. The ball did the rest."
Namibia skipper Sarel Burger praised Ireland "for coming out and bowling well" but admitted his players may have succumbed to the pressure of trying to qualify for their first-ever ICC World T20.
"I think that is the sad part," he said. "We started well. We had momentum early in the tournament. Unfortunately, it started running out towards the end when we needed to produce."
Burger said the team played "some exciting cricket" during the tournament but was disappointed to leave empty-handed.
"Unfortunately, it seems we get here but can't take the next step to take cricket further," he said. "At [the] end of [the] day, it's a bit sad that only two teams are going through. Personally, I think more teams should be given the chance to play against the best."
For Ireland, the win adds to the momentum behind their bid to become a Test playing nation. Porterfield highlighted the fact that they have appeared in all ICC World T20s since 2009 and last two World Cups in 2011 and 2007.
"From the last couple of World Cups, people have taken notice about the steps Irish cricket has been making," Porterfield said.
"It won't be easy in terms of making that step up but we feel we are ready to do that," he said of Test status. "We are getting a pool of players together and we are getting even more depth in the squad. As long as we can keep that pool of players getting bigger and bigger, then we will compete at all levels ... Hopefully, the ICC can give us the opportunity sooner rather than later."
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