Ireland made it two wins out of three in the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers after a narrow two-wicket victory over Italy in Abu Dhabi.
In 30C heat, Ireland were made to sweat by the disciplined bowling performance of an Italy team whose starting 11 contained just one home-born player, captain Alessandro Bonora, with Australian, South African and Sri Lankan accents all to be heard at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Italy’s batting performance was far from convincing, as they crawled to 100 for seven off their 20 overs.
Only former Australia batsman Michael Di Venuto (23 off 44 balls) and South African-born Middlesex all-rounder Gareth Berg (19 off 26) made a meaningful contribution until Bonora thrashed a couple of sixes in the final overs to finish undefeated on 20 from 14 deliveries.
Boyd Rankin was again the pick of the Irish bowlers, taking three for 16 from his four overs to add to his three wickets against Kenya on Wednesday.
Bowling quickly and at the stumps rather than an off-stump line, the Warwickshire paceman clattered the stumps of Damien Crowley and Hayden Patrizi in his second spell, as he set his personal best T20 figures for the second time in successive days.
A target of 101 from 120 balls did not seem too tall an order, but Ireland’s batsman stumbled in the face of some relentless left-arm spin from Crowley.
Ireland were well in control at the halfway stage of their innings, needing just 43 runs from 60 balls with eight wickets in hand. But the middle order crumpled, with Wilson stuck at the other end as Ed Joyce (three), William Porterfield (19), Trent Johnston (four), John Mooney (run out by a brilliant direct hit by Berg for four) and Max Sorenson (two) all fell.
Facing former Pembroke professional Andy Northcote in the final over of the game, Wilson kept his nerve superbly to hit the seven runs that ensured two points for Phil Simmons’ men.
Ireland now sit in second place in Group B, two points behind leaders Namibia.
The Africans beat the USA by 17 runs in Dubai to make it three wins out of three. Wilson, who finished with a run-a-ball 30 not out, admitted that Ireland had barely made it over the line.
“I am not sure we can take too many thoughts of momentum away from that,” Wilson said.
“We will take the two points and run! It was a real smash and grab at the end, but we are sitting here with two wins from three.”
Ireland return to Dubai to face the USA, in their fourth group game today.
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