Ireland firm favourites to win the series with Scotland batting in disarray

Ireland celebrate a wicket © Oisin Keniry/Cricket Ireland

After the defeat in the second T20I on Tuesday (May 25), Scotland’s newly appointed head coach Mark Coles had said that even though their performance on the day was disappointing he thought that’s the best Ireland can come up with and the visitors now knew what they are up against.

“It was a disappointing performance, but it happens in T20 cricket. The thing for me is that I think that’s the best that Ireland can play which is great. We weren’t at our best today,” Coles said.

But on Wednesday (May 26), it must have given Coles déjà vu with both Ireland and Scotland repeating their act from Tuesday. Ireland won the toss again, put up a competitive total of 134 on the board, and then defended it fairly comfortably with bowlers coming to the party for the third game in a row.

Ireland’s batting still hasn’t been at its best but it was good enough to beat Scotland on the day. His side’s repeated batting failures must be giving Coles some nightmares and at the moment it seems like only a failure on the same front from the hosts can keep Scotland in the game.

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To be fair to Scotland’s players, it hasn’t been easy to come out and perform straight away after a long break. With games coming thick and fast, there is no time to work on their flaws in between and against an Irish side, despite their loss in the first match, that look the more prepared of the two having had some game time under their belts coming into the series.

Scotland’s batting has been one-dimensional with the exception of skipper Kathryn Bryce’s 45 in the third T20I and to an extend Sarah Bryce in the first match. None of them came to terms with Ireland’s bowling. They struggled to start against the opening duo of Orla Prendergast and Ava Canning. By the time the power play ended, they were usually playing catch up. They struggled against other medium pacers as well and couldn’t find their footing against spinners Celeste Raack, Leah Paul and Cara Murray either.

On the other hand, Ireland would be the firm favourites to win the series come Thursday (May 27) when both sides take the field at the Civil Service Cricket Club, Stormont, in Belfast yet again for the fourth and final time. Their batters were inventive and even the ones who failed weren’t getting stuck at the crease like their Scottish counterparts. Gaby Lewis has been the most impressive of the batters but her opening partner Rebecca Stokell hasn’t been afraid to attack despite not having the scores to show for it.

One of the most striking aspects of Ireland’s cricket was the way Laura Delany batted in the third T20I despite twin failures in the first two. Despite the loss of Stokell and Lewis, she came out and attacked trying to unsettle Scotland’s spinners and that set the tone for the innings. For the second game in a row, their lower-order batters were able to garner big overs at the back end. Shauna Kavanagh’s elevation to number four in the absence of a few senior players, who are away from the country, and the way she batted also showed the positive intend in Ireland’s game.

With the-18-year-old Prendergast adapting seamlessly to the role of being the strike bowler of the side and fielders backing up the bowlers, Ireland seem to have all its bases covered. While Scotland looked the part in the field, it’s their batting that continues to let them down in the series. The only silver lining for them is the innings that Kathryn played on Wednesday and they will be hoping that rest of the batting line-up will take inspiration from it and emulate their skipper to help them put up a decent performance.

With the series up for grabs, leveling the series in the case of Scotland, it is unlikely that both sides will make many changes. It remains to be seen whether Ireland will hand Jane Maguire or Jenny Sparrow a debut while Scotland may think about getting young Ailsa Lister a bit up the order for Coles had high words of praise for her ahead of the series.

Unless the Bryce sisters come to the party, it’s going to be Ireland all the way come Thursday.

Squads:

Ireland: Laura Delany (c), Ava Canning, Rachel Delaney, Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis, Jane Maguire, Lara Maritz, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Celeste Raack, Jenny Sparrow, Rebecca Stokell

Scotland: Kathryn Bryce (c), Sarah Bryce, Becky Glen, Lorna Jack, Abbi Aitken-Drummond, Ikra Farooq, Abtaha Maqsood, Samantha Haggo, Katie Mcgill, Priyanaz Chatterji, Ailsa Lister, Katherine Fraser, Ellen Watson, Megan McColl