This was another match of inexplicably abject batting with a close finish, as Ireland struggled to exceed Kenya's 67 all out before winning with just five balls and four wickets in hand. The pitch cannot be blamed entirely for match after match of low scores and struggling batsmen and Monday's track was reported as fine, with a little extra grass which gave the bowlers a little seam movement. There was a little swing, but nothing excessive.
For some reason, the Associates' batsmen, inexperienced in this type of cricket, seem to have established a mental block about it, and it shows.
Ireland won the toss on a morning with pleasant intermittent sun and put Kenya in. The first over was a stereotypical Twenty20 over: Maurice Ouma hit a daring two to a misfield and a powerful four before slashing a catch to third man, before Kennedy Otieno edged a ball past the keeper and ran two while third man made a brilliant save. Eight for one in the over.
In the next over Nehemiah Odhiambo was lbw to Kevin O'Brien for 1, and Kenya were at the crossroads as Steve Tikolo walked in. He began cautiously, but then lost Otieno, who sent up a huge skyer off O'Brien that was caught at fine leg; 15 for 3. Alex Obanda (1) holed out to a brilliant running catch by Kyle McCallan at long-on; 27 for 4. The disasters continued, as Tikolo walked into a ball from Andre Botha to be lbw for 13 off 26 balls. After 10 overs, the score was 48 for 5 and another low-scoring encounter was virtually assured.
Worse was to come for the beleaguered Kenyans, as Alex Cusack bowled out two batsmen in the same over; 48 for 7. Any hopes of a significant recovery lay with Thomas Odoyo, but he swung and was bowled by Botha for 10, after adding 9 with Tony Suji. Botha then bowled Peter Ongondo first ball, another loose drive, but Tony Suji and Hiren Varaiya managed to add 10 - a major partnership in this tournament - to take the total to 67 before it came to a close with a run-out, 16 balls short of 20 overs.
Again, as in all but the first match so far, the bowling has been generally good, untested as it had been by so much abysmal batting. Botha took 3 for 20, but the initial damage was done by Connell and O'Brien up front, taking two each, as did Cusack.
Ireland's batsmen were determined not to throw their wickets away, but safe fast scoring was not easy. Two overs with only two wides to show from them is not easy to handle in this type of cricket, though, and William Porterfield, in the third over, dabbed at a ball from Odoyo outside off stump and was caught in the slips.
New batsman Niall O'Brien finally recorded the first run from the bat off the 15th delivery of the innings, only for Gary Wilson to attempt a pull and sky the ball, to be superbly caught by Tony Suji running back. Despite their initial caution, Ireland were 3 for 2.
Botha, taking advantage where he could of loose balls, slowly started to take charge, aided by the more defensive O'Brien. Ongondo remarkably conceded just seven runs in his four overs, although he did bowl a number of deliveries wide of off stump which the Irish batsmen in their caution allowed to pass.
After nine overs, the score was a mere 23 for 2, but then 12 runs off the tenth over, but Suji, relieved the pressure - even if there was a big contribution from a wide that passed the keeper for four. Botha fell for 22 in the 12th over, however, bowled as he drove at a flighted ball for Jimmy Kamande; 41 for 3. One run later, Andy White swung a catch to long leg, followed by Cusack skying a ball into the covers, and Ireland were faltering again.
Runs again dried up, with the O'Brien brothers together, but the stand was broken when Niall took a swing and edged an easy catch into the slips for 11 off 30 balls; 49 for 6 in the 16th over.
The 17th over, bowled again by the luckless Suji, was crucial, and nine runs came from it, all but one to Kevin O'Brien, who was now determined to take personal responsibility in the situation. This was the turning-point, and he and Trent Johnson kept things ticking over until, with the first ball of the final over, O'Brien hit Suji back over his head for the winning four.
There were two economical wickets each for Odoyo, Kamande and Ragheb Aga, while the unfortunate Suji went for 26 off three overs and a ball. Ireland thus go through to tomorrow's final, but their top-order batting will not have given them confidence.Ireland v Kenya, World Twenty20 Qualifiers semi-final, Belfast