A WORLD Cup without Ireland has become almost unthinkable these days, and they have made a good start in the ICC World Cup qualifying tournament in South Africa with victories over Scotland and Oman.
Their heroics in the last World Cup in the West Indies, when they reached the second stage after defeating Pakistan in a group match, confirmed them as a significant force, and William Porterfield's side did not disappoint against Scotland, beaten by seven wickets at Benoni, and Oman, crushed by 117 runs at Krugersdorp, a town about 60 miles outside Johannesburg.
Porterfield, of Gloucestershire, hit 101 against Scotland , with Eoin Morgan, the Middlesex left-hander, adding 60 off 56 balls to expose the Scots' total of 232 as inadequate on an easy batting pitch. They put on 131 for the second wicket in only 19 overs, with Porterfield racing to a 35-ball fifty. Only Calum MacLeod escaped heavy punishment, but the Scottish plight would have been far worse without an innings of 121 by Neil McCallum to repair a terrible start in the morning.
McCallum added a second century as Scotland defeated a good Namibia side by 73 runs in Pretoria, which kept their qualification hopes alive. Kyle Coetzer, of Durham, helped boost the total to 267 with 68 in support of McCallum's destructive knock. Faced with a daunting total, only Gerrie Snyman, hitting 95 off 102 balls, provided any resistance for Namibia.
Ireland slipped to 46 for four wickets against Oman before a Northants partnership of Andrew White (71) and Kevin O'Brien (101) added 175 in an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership to raise the total to 285 for four. In reply Oman disintegrated against Regan West (5-30).
The countries to win their first two matches were Ireland and Canada in Group A, and Aghanistan and Holland in Group B.