Ireland and New Zealand continue their T20 World Cup preparations on Wednesday when the two sides meet in the second T20 of three in Belfast with the tourists looking to build on their win in the opening game on Monday.
Ireland weren’t at their best in the first game but know they have two more chances to take a big scalp and begin to build up some confidence ahead of the tournament which is now only three months away.
It looked like things were going smoothly for Ireland in the opening game when they had New Zealand 100-5 with a ball to go in over 14 but as was the case in the ODI series which preceded it, the Irish bowlers couldn’t keep the innings under control at the death and the team paid the price for that. On the face of it 173 wouldn’t look a big total but the way that total was made clearly had Ireland on the back foot going into their batting innings.
That innings never really got going and when they were four down inside the powerplay it was a case of damage limitation from there. They never looked like getting home so a big improvement is needed if they are going to challenge New Zealand in this series. Both in the last two games here and building up to the T20 World Cup, if Ireland are going to be competitive they really have to sort their death bowling out because it is undoing all that is good about the cricket they do play.
The Kiwis won’t have been completely happy with their opening performance if you were comparing it to what they might need to win the T20 World Cup down under later in the year but the one thing that is never a bad thing is winning a match and that is what they did. With two more matches to come in this series you would imagine that New Zealand will improve game on game so we should expect a better version of them here.
The first thing they will want to improve is their top order batting. While the likes of Tom Blundell, Tim Seifert and Kane Williamson will surely come into contention come the main tournament, those who are here will need to start delivering the goods because it is becoming a worrying trend that New Zealand are struggling for top order runs regardless of the personnel or the format. The spinners were expensive in the first game too so the tourists will want more from them as well.
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Ireland picked what looked to be their strongest XI in the opening game and might give those the chance to get it right in this match. If they do make a change then Andy McBrine might come into the thinking to strengthen the batting while offering a bowling option.
New Zealand have no real reason to make any changes to their side for this match although Mark Chapman and the former Netherlands bowler Michael Rippon are waiting in the wings, the latter could come in for Ish Sodhi who was expensive in the opening game.
There were 37 boundaries in the opening match even though both sides were three down inside the powerplay. You wouldn’t think there is a strong case for both teams to lose so many wickets in the powerplay in this match even if it means going slightly less hard than they did in that opening game so the potential for wickets in hand will be a little higher. That should mean more boundaries, particularly if New Zealand bat first as it will mean that they can get after this Ireland bowling earlier in the piece.
We saw in the ODIs that Ireland can get after this New Zealand attack but they didn’t really give themselves the chance to do that in the opening game. I refuse to believe early wickets are going to come in the bunches that they did in that first game, especially now both teams have a feel for the conditions here. The boundaries line is 39.5 for this one but when you consider that genuine boundary hitters such as Finn Allen and Daryl Mitchell didn’t hit any while Paul Stirling, Gareth Delany and Harry Tector only made four between them then I think the potential is for three more here.
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