Ireland left-arm pacer Josh Little’s hat-trick went in vain as New Zealand took a big step towards qualifying for the semifinals of Men’s T20 World Cup with a 35-run win in their last Group 1 match in Super 12s at the Adelaide Oval on Friday.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson played exquisite shots all across the park to make a solid 61 off 35 balls, shrugging off his lean run to get his first fifty of the tournament, and help his side reach a challenging 185/6.
But Little stole the thunder of it by dismissing him, Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner on the trot in the 19th over to record second hat-trick of the tournament as Ireland gave away only 12 runs in their last two overs.
The sensational hat-trick propelled Little to end with figures of 3/22 in his four overs. But Ireland could make only 150/9 in their 20 overs with the bat while chasing 186, as Santner, Ish Sodhi and Lockie Ferguson shined with the ball.
With the win, New Zealand are on seven points now, which means Australia and England can be level with them on points if they win their respective final matches. But the Blackcaps may be assured to be table-toppers of Group 1 with net run rate now at a healthy +2.11.
Pushed into batting first, New Zealand’s aggressive opening duo of Finn Allen and Devon Conway were kept in check for the initial stages of powerplay. Allen finally cut loose against Gareth Delany by taking three fours in the fourth over. He then took on Mark Adair with a four and a six. But the pacer had the last laugh in the final over of the powerplay, as Allen hit straight to mid-off.
In the 12th over, Conway holed out to long-on off Delany. But New Zealand were quick in rebuilding their innings with Williamson and Glenn Phillips hitting delightful boundaries. Though Phillips fell after a quick nine-ball 17, Williamson batted on for the bulk of the innings.
He seemed to have found his rhythm which had deserted him in the tournament, timing the ball as nicely as he did and picking runs through gaps at will. After getting his fifty with a magnificent flick going over deep mid-wicket fence off Barry McCarthy to reach his fifty, Williamson looked all set to get New Zealand past 200.
But Little’s hat-trick in the 19th over meant Ireland pulled back things very nicely to keep New Zealand to 185/6. Ireland needed a big start and their openers, captain Andrew Balbirnie and Paul Stirling, responded well to the call with some amazing boundaries. At 68 for no loss after eight overs, Ireland looked set to cause an upset.
But then spin did the trick for New Zealand through Santner’s left-arm spin and Ish Sodhi’s leg-spin. Having realised that pace off the ball was the key to make inroads in Adelaide, both Santner and Sodhi took three wickets between themselves from ninth, tenth and 11th overs to break the back of Ireland’s batting.
As the asking rate went up, Ireland continued to crumble under pressure. More wickets fell as Lockie Ferguson picked three while Tim Southee also got one in the end as Ireland eventually fell short by 35 runs.