Two Somerset bowlers were in action throughout the group stages of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. In the first of a special two-part review for The Incider, Dan Kingdom focuses on George Dockrell and an eventful tournament for the Irish spinner.
So near yet so far. This was the story of Ireland’s World Cup, which culminated in a must-win game against Pakistan, in which the Irish were outplayed. It was a sad end to a campaign which marks the end of Phil Simmons’ time as Ireland coach, and one which can certainly be looked back on proudly. Like in 2011, they were one of the highlights of the group stage, and all three of their wins were tight. Somerset’s George Dockrell featured in every match and, while he had an inconsistent tournament, there were moments to savour.
Ireland v West Indies – Ireland won by 4 wickets
Ireland’s World Cup campaign got underway with an outstanding victory over the West Indies. After winning the toss, the Ireland bowlers reduced the West Indies to 87 for 5 in the 24th over with Dockrell taking three key wickets. First was Chris Gayle, caught by Kevin O’Brien going for a slog over cow corner. Two balls later Marlon Samuels fell too, lbw off the back foot. Denesh Ramdin went via the same method, this time going for the sweep.
Lendl Simmons and Darren Sammy rebuilt the West Indies innings from the rubble, but Dockrell, apart from the odd boundary, continued to bowl tightly. He finished with respectable figures of 10-0-50-3 as the West Indies’ innings closed on 304 for 7 thanks to Simmons’ century and Sammy’s 89.
Apart from a couple of hiccups at the end, Ireland made light work of what should have been a challenging chase. Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien were the standouts as the Irish reached their target with four wickets and 25 balls to spare.
Ireland v United Arab Emirates – Ireland won by 2 wickets
Dockrell made another valuable contribution in Ireland’s victory over the UAE, this time with bat rather than ball. Bowling first, his impact was limited as he was only asked to bowl in the 30th over with Stirling being the preferred spin option until then. He did take the vital wicket of Khurram Khan (lbw), but suffered some punishment at the hands of UAE century-maker Shaiman Anwar.
Chasing 279 to win, Ireland found themselves in trouble on 97 for 4 in the 26th over, but Andrew Balbirnie and Gary Wilson revived the innings with a partnership of 74. Former Somerset T20 player Kevin O’Brien continued the good work, feasting on the UAE bowlers for a quick 50.
Dockrell arrived at the crease with Ireland requiring 12 from 15 balls with two wickets left. After being dropped second ball, he hit his next for four. Needing three from the final over, partner Alex Cusack was nearly run out before Dockrell finished the job with a high, mistimed cut in the air for two. He finished on 7 not out from 5 balls as Ireland won with four balls to spare.
Ireland came crashing back down to earth in an enormous loss against a strong South Africa. Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis struck fine centuries in a total of 411 for 4 as Ireland’s bowlers took a major beating. That was with the exception of Dockrell, who conceded just 56 runs from his ten overs, making him Ireland’s most economical bowler.
Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott quickly blew away the top order, and despite some resistance from Balbirnie and Kevin O’Brien, Ireland were never in the chase. Those two were the only Irish batsmen to face more balls than Dockrell, as the Somerset spinner resisted for 57 of them to score 25, including a four and a six.
Ireland v Zimbabwe – Ireland won by 5 runs
Despite the loss against South Africa, qualification for the quarter finals was still very much in Ireland’s hands going into their match versus Zimbabwe. Joyce and Balbirnie continued their good form with 112 and 97 respectively, and Dockrell hit 5 not out from 3 balls. Cameos from Kevin O’Brien and Wilson helped the Irish to 331 for 8.
Quick wickets, including Solomon Mire caught by Cusack off Dockrell, put Ireland on top early in the chase as Zimbabwe found themselves 74 for 4. But Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams put on 149 to put them back in the game, and despite periodic wicket losses after that, they needed seven runs from the final over with two wickets left.
Regis Chakabva was bowled first ball, and a single from Tendai Chatara brought the dangerous-looking Tawanda Mupariwa back on strike. He promptly hit the ball high over the bowler’s head, but not far enough – captain Will Porterfield took a fine catch charging in from the boundary to win the game for Ireland. Cusack, who bowled the final over, was the pick of the bowlers, taking four wickets. Dockrell had solid figures again, taking one wicket for 56 runs from his ten overs.
Ireland v India – India won by 8 wickets
Despite a good start with the bat, Ireland were outclassed by India in their fifth pool match. Porterfield and Stirling put on an opening partnership of 89, and Niall O’Brien made 75, but a lower order collapse limited Ireland to a disappointing 259 all out. Dockrell hit 6 from 12 balls, solely comprised of a powerful maximum off Ravindra Jadeja.
The Indian top order made light work of the target; Shikhar Dhawan hitting a century and Rohit Sharma 64. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane finished the job as India won with 13.1 overs to spare. Stuart Thompson (who played a few matches for Somerset 2nd XI in 2012) took both wickets as Dockrell was punished, conceding 44 runs from his five overs.
Ireland v Pakistan – Pakistan won by 7 wickets
It all came down to the final game against Pakistan, an almost-winner-takes-all shoot-out to conclude the group stage. Sadly, Ireland were never in it despite Porterfield’s century, and a total of 237 all out wasn’t enough even against a fragile Pakistan batting line-up. None of the Ireland batsmen were able to stick around long enough to properly assist their captain, and their second-highest score was Wilson’s 29. Dockrell hit one of only two sixes in the innings, this time off Wahab Riaz over midwicket as the left arm spinner scored 11 from 8 balls.
The chase had a similar pattern to India’s, with both openers scoring big before cameos from Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal. Sarfraz Ahmed batted through the innings to finish on 101 not out and ensure Pakistan a knock-out berth ahead of Ireland. The Irish briefly harboured hope of a Pakistan collapse after Ahmed Shehzad (63) and Haris Sohail (3) fell in quick succession, but in the end Pakistan were too strong. Dockrell took more punishment, conceding 43 runs from his six overs without taking a wicket.
It was a sad end to the World Cup for Ireland, who had looked in a good position after three wins from their first four games. Sadly, this could be Ireland’s final World Cup appearance, for now at least, with the ICC reducing the tournament to ten teams for 2019. Porterfield expressed his frustration after their final game, questioning the point of them playing if they are going to be barred from the game’s premier tournament. But, despite this and their early elimination, Ireland’s 2015 World Cup campaign will be remembered as an eventful one.
Dockrell’s overall figures:
Not outs: 2
High score: 25
Strike rate: 63.52
Bowling and fielding:
Best bowling: 3/50
Strike rate: 57.60
- Coming soon on The Incider: In the second part of his review, Dan looks at Josh Davey’s World Cup, where the Scottish all-rounder became one of the tournament’s leading wicket takers.