New Zealand 185 for 6 (Williamson 61, Allen 32, Little 3-22, Delany 2-30) beat Ireland 150 for 9 (Stirling 37, Balbirnie 30, Ferguson 3-22, Santner 2-26, Southee 2-29, Sodhi 2-31) by 35 runs
Ireland’s best consolation as they fell to a 35-run defeat in their final game of the competition came from Josh Little’s hat-trick.
With a score of 61 off just 35 balls, Kane Williamson got back in form just in time to help New Zealand advance to the T20 World Cup semifinals for the first time. Although they defeated Ireland with ease, it wasn’t until the second game at the Adelaide Oval on Friday that it became evident that they had qualified for the final four. The 35-run victory by New Zealand increased their net run rate to 2.113, making them the favorites to win Group 1.
Josh Little’s hat-trick helped Ireland restrict their opponents to just 12 runs off the final two overs, and openers Andy Balbirnie and Paul Stirling put up 68 runs in the first eight overs of their 186-run chase, but their challenge crumbled in the face of a skilled bowling assault.
Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, the spin twins, led New Zealand’s effort with the ball. In the middle overs, their precise changes of pace tormented and foxed the Ireland hitters. However, far earlier than that, Williamson had answered his detractors by ending with a strike rate of 174.28 despite a customarily quiet start.
Conway becomes stuck, and Allen flees
On a pitch that appeared to be moving slowly, Devon Conway found it difficult to get going. He had only managed 19 off 28 balls, which included 14 dots, at the midway point of the innings. Making space, driving down the field, lofting over the infield, and even moving the ball about didn’t seem to work for him.
However, Finn Allen, his opening partner, appeared to be batting on another pitch. He pounced as Ireland introduced spin, sliding into Gareth Delany in the fourth over after scoring six runs off his first eight balls. He lifted a ball over cover, drilled a drive down the middle, then blasted three boundaries off the leg spinner.
He struck Mark Adair for a six and a four consecutively in the last over of the powerplay after hitting Little for another four in the following over. And just when it appeared he would win the match for Ireland, he was out for 32 off 18 after driving the subsequent ball to mid-off at a catchable height.
Williamson responds in a crucial game
Williamson started the innings in classic Williamson manner, reaching 15 off of just as many balls and one boundary. As soon as he attacked Fionn Hand, going over the bowler’s head for four, and then swinging a pull over the fine leg boundary, though, things began to change.
The momentum was briefly boosted by Glenn Phillips’ cameo of 17 off nine balls, but the New Zealand captain took it upon himself to make sure his team finished with a respectable score. He reached his fifty as he had in Dubai, with a slog-sweep for six, in a nod to last year’s T20 World Cup final where he had rallied New Zealand after a sluggish start.
He increased his pace from 30 off 23 balls to 50 off 32 balls, which is the same number of balls as in the 2021 final. Barry McCarthy was slog-swept for six by Williamson in the 18th over, hacked for four over short third, and then again swung over deep midwicket for six before he was the first of three consecutive wickets to fall to Little in the last over.
Big show for Little
Little, a left-arm seamer, continues to be Ireland’s bowlers’ lone shining star during a largely unsuccessful campaign. With 11 balls left, New Zealand was 174 for 3 and on the verge of passing 200 when Little scored his hat-trick, the second of the competition after Karthik Meiyappan’s strike for the UAE against Sri Lanka in the first round.
Williamson was only able to find a fine leg when Little hit him with a quick blow. The following ball, Little experienced some luck as a length ball kept just a touch low to thwart James Neesham’s attempted leg-side swing and trap him in front. Neesham reviewed because he had nothing to lose, although he did so more out of optimism than conviction that the lbw ruling might be overturned. When Little angled one into Santner, who missed a flick and then reviewed the resulting lbw judgement, replays revealed that the ball was on course to strike middle stump. This gave Little his third wicket.
Little finished the tournament with 11 wickets and, after Curtis Campher’s four off four against the Netherlands at the T20 World Cup last year, became just the second Irish bowler to claim a hat-trick in T20 Internationals.