Barry Chambers reports from World T20 warm-up
William Porterfield and Andrew Balbirnie shared an unbeaten century stand as Ireland began their World T20 programme with a morale-boosting ten wicket warm-up win over Hong Kong under the floodlights in Dharamsala on Thursday night.
Porterfield was at his destructive best, making an undefeated 75 that came off just 36 balls and included 10 fours and four sixes. He struck the ball cleanly and powerfully, especially through the cover region, piercing the gaps and clearing the fence on four occassions.
Andrew Balbirnie - promoted to opener in the absence of Paul Stirling - proved the perfect foil, hitting five fours and a six in his 47 not out from 38 balls as Ireland raced to the win with 7.4 overs to spare.
Chasing 121 for victory the opening duo were rarely troubled in the pursuit of their modest total.
Tim Murtagh and Max Sorensen had given Ireland a blistering start with the ball earlier in the evening. Gary Wilson's stunning one-handed catch at first slip accounted for Jamie Atkinson three balls into the Hong Kong innings, while Murtagh then trapped the dangerous Babar Hayat just two balls later to record a double wicket maiden.
Hills' paceman Max Sorensen reacted to being clubbed for six by former Australian international Ryan Campbell in his first over by having the 44 year-old veteran caught behind next ball, feathering a leg side catch to the dependable Niall O'Brien.
With the board reading 6 for 3 the fielding side's tails were up at that point but a 41-run stand between Nizakat Khan (18) and in-form Mark Chapman pulled Hong Kong back into the game, albeit steadily.
Ireland's bowlers were well on top and controlled the middle overs, with Boyd Rankin in particular impressing with 1-13 from his four. He ended Khan's resistance with a searing delivery that demolished the stumps - sending two cartwheeling out of the ground in spectacular fashion.
Andy McBrine (1-9), Kevin O'Brien (0-17), and Stuart Thompson (0-18) kept things tight as Hong Kong struggled to gain any momentum - Thompson showing great athleticism to stop a Chapman drive from his own bowling, and throw down the stumps of Rath.
21 year-old Chapman - who plays first-class cricket for Auckland in New Zealand - stood firm despite the pressure, eventually finishing with a quality unbeaten 64 (53 balls, 7 fours, 1 six) as the batting side closed on 120-7 from their 20 overs. They were boosted by 16 runs from the final over of their innings, but the acceleration had come far too late to cause Ireland any real trouble.
This was a superb all-round display by a dominant Irish side, and give them some much needed momentum as the business end of the tournament gets under way next way. Zimbabwe are the next warm-up opponents for the Irish on Saturday, with Oman their first Group opponents on Wednesday March 9.
At Dharamsala, Ireland beat Hong Kong by 10 wickets.
Hong Kong 120-7 (20 overs, M Chapman 64*, N Khan 18, T Murtagh 2-21)
Ireland 122-0 (12.2 overs, W Porterfield 75*, A Balbirnie 47*)
Report by Barry Chambers