It was a perfect year for Ireland in the wham, bam, thank-you mam, fast-food form of cricket, with 10 out of 10 on the field. They did lose to an ever improving PNG in a non-capped match where more than 11 players were used, but that doesn't count in the stats.

Ireland started their T20 year back in March in Sharjah with an emphatic six wicket win against UAE, whom they dismissed for just 122 thanks to Tim Murtagh's opening blitz of 3-11, and two wickets apiece for spin twins George Dockrell and Paul Stirling.

William Porterfield stroked a fine half century with Gary Wilson's unbeaten 35 steering Ireland serenely home with seven balls to spare.

That was to be the only T20 game for Ireland in 2013 until mid-November when the T20 World Cup qualifying tournament started.

Proposed camps in Sri Lanka and India never materialised for one reason or another so the squad prepared in the UAE with warm-up matches against a strong local Wings XI which featured former Irish international Peter Connell.

Two hard fought wins there was followed by a William Porterfield inspired win over The Netherlands. Chasing 140 for victory the Irish skipper dominated the successful chse with an unbeaten 75 as Ireland prevailed in the final over.

A team shake up saw Ireland lose embarrassingly to PNG on the eve of the tournament, but when it came to the Real McCoy, the Irish juggernaut proved unstoppable once they got out of first gear in the early group stages.

Namibia were the first opponents - they had been the last Associate side to defeat Ireland in T20 back in March 2012 - but this time, a solid batting display saw Ireland post 166/5 with Paul Stirling top scoring with 52 from 36 balls. If Stirling bats for 10 overs or more, Ireland invariably won and this was yet again the case here.

Alex Cusack, who enjoyed a successful campaign on his comeback from injury, removed the dangerous Louis van der Westhuizen early, and from that point Ireland cruised to a 32 run win.

The next two matches were altogether much tighter affairs and it took Ireland's accumulated vast experience to get them over the finishing line.

Portefield and Stirling both went early this time and it took a fine cameo from Trent Johnston (39) and spirited efforts from the O'Brien brothers and Gary Wilson to help Ireland to 168/5.

That looked more than enough as Max Sorensen then took wickets with the first two balls of the Canadian reply. However Ashish Bagai and Ruvindu Gunasekera both made half centuries in third wicket stand of 125 to put Canada in control. Alex Cusack held his nerve and helped by a fine stop on the boundary by Kevin O'Brien, Ireland squeezed home by three runs.

The game against UAE saw Ireland once more up as much against the elements as the talent of their opposition. A low, slow turner saw Ireland struggle to build momentum early on and it took a 92 run stand between Gary Wilson (53) and Kevin O'Brien (47) to help them to 138 for 5 - just below par being the feeling at the half-way point.

George Dockrell and Paul Stirling both used the conditions well to get Ireland back in contention, but the performance of Max Sorensen was the most telling, as he bowled superbly into the teeth of a gale force wind which proved a major factor in the contest.

UAE had the game won when Amjad Javed smashed two huge sixes off Alex Cusack making use of the helpful gale, but having reduced the equation to 10 from 10 balls attempted one blow too many, and his stumping proved the turning point.

Trent Johnston was entrusted with the final over and he didn't let the side down - Ireland helped by two run outs won another nail-biter by five runs.

You sensed that any chance opposition sides would have were early on and that Ireland would grow in strength and confidence - that was indeed to be the case.

The USA were next up and William Porterfield became the first Irish player to score a century in T20 - his quite brilliant 127 (69 balls, 12 fours, 5 sixes) saw Ireland smash the hapless Satesiders for 215 for 3. Despite a few lusty cameos Ireland won by 75 runs, with Paul Stirling taking 3 wickets, and two apiece for George Dockrell, Max Sorensen and John Mooney.

Uganda proved a much sterner test for the Irish - their steady bowling backed up by athletic fielding meant Ireland were never ever to hammer down the accelerator on a worn track. It took a late cameo of 40 in 27 balls from Gary Wilson to post 147 for 4.

The Irish attack never offered any freebies and soon strangled the life out of the Africans reply, with two wickets each yet again for Dockrell and Stirling meaning Uganda settled for 99 for 7.

The competition format meant that group winners qualified automatically for the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh, avoiding the highly stressed play-off lottery.

Thus Ireland's clash with Hong Kong became a shoot-out for the top slot - Ireland had a rained off farce against Italy when a combination of heavy rain, inadequate covering, and typical ICC inflexibilty meant  a point each.

Ireland channelled their frustrations onto the pitch and blistering half centuries from Paul Stirling 77 (46 balls, 9 fours, 3 sixes), and Kevin O Brien 62* (27 balls, 3 fours, 5 sixes) saw them post 207 for 4.

Credit to Hong Kong who came out all guns blazing and indeed approaching the half way stage were on course for a remarkable win.

However the dismissal of Jamie Atkinson saw Hong Kong disintegrate from 92 for 2 to 122 all out - the by now familiar duo of Paul Stirling (4-10) and George Dockrell (2-18) the instigators of the collapse.

The champagne moment was the stunning boundary catch by James Shannon to dismiss Nizakat Khan. The Instonians player had been drafted in to the line up to replace Niall O'Brien - controversially dropped from the starting line up by Phil Simmons.

Ireland faced the UAE once again at the semi-final stage and this time ran out convincing winners as the home sides fielding was cruelly exposed in the glare of the live tv cameras. Ireland wobbled early on but a typically hard hit 35 from Trent Johnston helped them to 147 for 8.

Tim Murtagh (4-24) and Max Sorensen (4-15) then took four wickets apiece as UAE were skittled for just 85 - the winning margin being 62 runs.

Afghanistan stood in Ireland's way as the clean sweep beckoned. There have been some titanic struggles between the leading Associates in recent years and another close affair looked on the cards.

Ireland came racing out of the stalls and never relented as they kept finding the boundaries with regularity, stunning the assembled 8000 Afghans fans into near silence.

The Irish hit 22 fours and 10 sixes - 148 of their total of 225 for 7 coming in boundaries. Paul Stirling 76 (43 balls, 8 fours, 4 sixes) and Trent Johnston 62 (32 balls, 5 fours, 4 sixes) the main destroyers of the previously lauded Afghan attack. The sight of the Afghan crowd paying deserved tribute to the pair was a sign of just how much the crowd realized the brilliance of the assault on their heroes - reminiscent perhaps of the Zulus paying tribute to the defenders of Rourkes Drift!

Afghanistan, as expected, came out swinging and landed a few punches of their own early on, but the pressure of such a high run rate eventually told, and they fell 68 runs adrift - another huge margin in T20 cricket.

It was fitting that the soon to be retired Johnston (3-34) took the bowling honours, but credit to Dockrell who dismissed the dangerous Shehzad and Mangal, with Cusack and Murtagh also claiming two wins apiece.

It may appear churlish to end on a negative note after the perfect ten but the fact that in spite of this, they still haven't really qualified for the T20 World Cup.

What commentators are calling "The ICC Con Job" means that they and their fellow qualifiers go into yet another qualifying competition before they get the chance to play in the T20 World Cup proper.

The six qualifiers will be joined by Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in two groups which will be known as "ICC World Twenty20 Round One" - the winners of each group progressing to the full competition.

This is perhaps a sign of things to come for Associate sides with the Full Members carefully engineering formats which ensure no costly scenarios where the top ranked teams can be knocked early resulting in damaging loss of the ever important tv revenues. They will of course consider the lower ranked countries such as Zimbabwe and Bangladesh expendable.

Ireland T20 2013 Statistics


Most runs

  1. William Porterfield - 421 @ 52.62
  2. Paul Stirling - 301 @30.10
  3. Kevin O'Brien - 265 @ 33.12
  4. Gary Wilson - 215 @ 35.83
  5. Trent Johnston - 145 @ 48.33
  6. Niall O'Brien - 127 @ 25.40
  7. John Mooney - 92 @ 23.00

Most sixes

  1. William Porterfield - 14
  2. Kevin O'Brien - 10
  3. Paul Stirling - 9
  4. Trent Johnston - 8
  5. Gary Wilson - 5
  6. John Mooney - 2

Most fours

  1. William Porterfield - 46
  2. Paul Stirling - 39
  3. Kevin O'Brien - 14
  4. Gary Wilson - 14
  5. Trent Johnston - 13
  6. Niall O'Brien - 10
  7. John Mooney - 7


Most wickets

  1. Max Sorensen 16 @ 11.62
  2. Paul Stirling 13 @ 11.62
  3. George Dockrell 13 @ 17.08
  4. Tim Murtagh 12 a@ 17.17
  5. Alex Cusack 9 @ 18.33
  6. Trent Johnston 5 @ 37.20


Most catches

  1. George Dockrell - 9
  2. Paul Stirling - 7
  3. James Shannon - 5
  4. Alex Cusack - 4
  5. John Mooney - 4