Andy Balbirnie: Ireland have real belief in making T20 World Cup semi-finals

Andy Balbirnie insisted there is real belief Ireland can reach the T20 World Cup semi-finals despite their hopes of consolidating on their win over England being dashed by rain.

Ireland started their Super 12s campaign with a heavy defeat against Sri Lanka but rebounded by producing a major shock on Wednesday, toppling England in a dramatic rain-affected finale at the MCG.

They did not get to take to the field 48 hours later, though, as a showdown against Afghanistan at the same venue was abandoned without a ball bowled due to persistent showers and a saturated outfield.

Ireland were thwarted by the Melbourne rain on Friday (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP)
Ireland were thwarted by the Melbourne rain on Friday (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP)

Balbirnie was pragmatic about the washout, although the outcome was particularly unfortunate on Afghanistan, whose prior game against New Zealand was also wiped out because of the inclement weather.

“It’s just part of the game,” Balbirnie said. “You do come to Australia thinking you don’t need a hoodie or a rain jacket but it’s certainly been different since we arrived three or four weeks ago.

“It’s not a controllable so we don’t get too worked up about it.”

Ireland, the second lowest-ranked side in T20s left in the competition, now head to the warmer and sunnier climes of Brisbane to take on hosts and defending champions Australia at the Gabba on Monday.

They finish their group against New Zealand in Adelaide next Friday and likely need to beat both Trans-Tasman sides and hope for results elsewhere to go in their favour for a top-two finish in their group.

Ireland have never beaten Australia or New Zealand in any format but Balbirnie pointed out that their upset five-run win under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method over England has boosted their confidence.

“We certainly believe we can,” Balbirnie said. “Our result on Wednesday backs that belief. We didn’t play our best cricket and we still managed to beat a team as good as England so that was positive.

“I wouldn’t want to be part of a group that didn’t think that (Ireland could reach the semis), that would certainly be a bad environment to be a part of.

“The world champions in their own backward is something pretty special. They’ll be expected to beat us, no doubt. That’s kind of a nice way to go into the game, you can play with a bit more freedom.

“We certainly have that belief in our group that we can beat them, we know we’ll have to be very good on the day. I know the group are pretty excited about that challenge.”

However, Balbirnie rejected the suggestion Ireland go into the Australia and New Zealand fixtures with nothing to lose.

“The pressure we have at this stage is if we lose badly, a lot of people will say we don’t deserve to be here and that’s a different kind of pressure,” Balbirnie added.

“We don’t like using the term free hit because we want to go out and play, even if it’s the first or second round, we want to go out and play, we want to play a certain way.

“We have as much to lose in this tournament. I can understand why people say that but, from our point of view, we feel on a level playing field when we take the field and we have to perform that way too.”