Adelaide: Josh Little’s hat-trick overshadowed Kane Williamson’s return to form as New Zealand inched closer to booking their place in the semi-finals of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup with a 35-run victory over Ireland here on Friday.
New Zealand look well placed to finish in the top two places in Group 1, with their healthy net run rate (+2.113) likely to ensure they move through to the knockout stages of the tournament.
Little struck with three consecutive deliveries during his final over at the Adelaide Oval to become just the sixth player in T20 World Cup history to register a hat-trick.
The left-armer picked up the big scalps of Williamson, Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner with some excellent bowling to become join teammate Curtis Campher as the only Ireland player to register a T20I hat-trick, reported ICC.
Little also finishes the tournament with 11 wickets in an impressive individual display that bodes well for the future of Ireland cricket, with his figures of 3/22 against the Kiwis meaning the 23-year-old finished with a total of 7/59 from 11 overs against three of the groups biggest teams – New Zealand, England and Australia.
Despite Little’s heroics with the ball, Ireland struggled to mix it with their more fancied opponents for much of the match as New Zealand maintained their place on top of Group A with their third victory of the tournament.
They will be buoyed by the return to form made by Williamson, who showed glimpses of his best during his 35-ball innings of 61 as the Black Caps posted an imposing total of 185/6 after being sent in by Ireland skipper Andy Balbirnie.
The New Zealand captain received good support from openers Finn Allen (32) and Devon Conway (28), while Daryl Mitchell (31) chimed in with some lofty blows late in the innings to ensure the score was more than enough.
Paul Stirling (37) and Balbirnie (30) gave some brief hope when they put on 68 for the opening wicket inside eight overs in reply, but New Zealand put pay to any chance of an upset by collecting wickets at regular intervals from that point on.
Spin duo Mitchell Santner (2/26) and Ish Sodhi (2/31) bowled well, while speedster Lockie Ferguson (3/22) showed some good pace to be the pick of the quick bowlers.
Ireland finish the tournament with a solitary victory during the Super 12 stage, but with their heads held high following a number of competitive displays.