New Zealand are assured of a T20 World Cup semi-final spot after overcoming Ireland despite a sensational hat-trick from Josh Little.
The Black Caps’ 35-run victory in Adelaide likely means they will top their Super 12s group even though Australia moved level with them on seven points after defeating Afghanistan later in the day.
Australia will finish behind their Trans-Tasman rivals on net run-rate and only England can now catch the Kiwis – although that involves Jos Buttler’s side beating Sri Lanka by a freakish margin.
Kane Williamson found some fluency at the crease and top-scored with 61 off 35 balls but New Zealand were pegged back towards the end of their innings by some fine death bowling, most notably from Little.
The left-arm seamer snared Williamson when the New Zealand captain miscued a pull to deep backward-square leg before pinning both Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner in front off the next two balls.
The trio of wickets in the penultimate over halted New Zealand’s charge to a 200-plus score as they settled for 185 for six and there may have been minor alarm as Ireland started the chase well.
Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie put on 68 in eight overs before the latter dragged on to his stumps off slow left-armer Santner before fellow spinner Ish Sodhi’s googly did for the other Irish opener.
Santner and Sodhi kept a check on Ireland’s scoring and took another wicket apiece while Lockie Ferguson finished with three for 22 as New Zealand cruised from that point on.
Tim Southee also chipped in with a couple of wickets as Ireland finished on 150 for nine.
Ireland have had a memorable past few weeks, with wins over the West Indies and England, but they will finish outside the top four of the group, meaning they may have to qualify for the 2024 tournament.