Humiliation for Ireland. Not because of yesterday’s huge 133 runs loss to Sri Lanka but their failure as the fourth ranked team in the World Cup qualifying tournament to even make it into the final six.

They have one more group match left, against UAE tomorrow, but they are already destined for the meaningless play-offs and while the stands will be packed here at the Queen’s Sports Club in Bulawayo for Zimbabwe’s first match in the Super Sixes, their opponents will be Oman, rather than Ireland.

Sri Lanka were always favourites to maintain their 100 per cent record in the tournament but Ireland gave themselves the best possible chance of an upset when Andrew Balbirnie won the toss. That bonus was wasted inside three overs when Josh Little went for five wides and his first two overs for 27. A horror start.

It was the beginning of a nightmare day for Ireland’s IPL bowler and Balbirnie could not even afford to give him his full quota of overs, his first eight having disappeared at almost 10 an over.

Fortunately, Barry McCarthy was in the team and he took his chance in his first game of the tournament with three wickets, although the pick of the bowlers was Mark Adair, who was only denied the chance of a fifth wicket because Sri Lanka’s last man was run-out.

The best slow bowler was also a surprise. Gareth Delany, was not even supposed to be playing – Ben White twisted an ankle in the warm-up – and his leg spin was not even used in the first two games. However, after George Dockrell conceded 33 in his first four overs, Delany got the call and in the end bowled all 10 overs for the first time in an one-day international, rewarded with his best figures.

After McCarthy had struck with consecutive balls in his third over, however, Dimuth Karunaratne and Sadeera Samarawickrama put on 168 for the third wicket – both recorded their ODI best scores - and, even at that stage, it looked as if Ireland’s World Cup hopes were over.

But in a tremendous fightback, 216 for two became 325 all out and on a flawless pitch, Ireland had given themselves an outside chance if the batting could cope with the Sri Lanka spinners. They couldn’t.

Paul Stirling and Andy McBrine didn’t get to face them because they were both out to the opening bowlers inside seven overs but leg spinner Wanindu Hasaranga needed only three balls to have Balbirnie adjudged leg before with his googly, although when you are out of form, luck usually goes against you and it could easily have spun past the stumps.

The Ireland plan was not to allow Hazaranga to get into a rhythm and although he conceded 79 runs in his 10 overs, he held a return catch, from his final ball, after a 14-ball cameo from Little to take his fifth wicket.

At the other end, off spinner Maheesh Theekshana dismissed Curtis Campher, to a top edge pull having already taken eight off the over, and it was then the feeling really hit home that Ireland’s World Cup dream was over.
It will be another four years, at least, before they can play in the sport’s showpiece tournament.