Scotland and Ireland reach the semi-finals: Cricket

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Scotland and Ireland are both through to the semi-finals of the ICC Trophy after another rain affected day in Kuala Lumpur. At least one of them will now play in the World Cup finals in England in 1999 as three teams will qualify.

The Scots had to endure an agonising few hours wait before learning they would go through after they lost their unbeaten record to Kenya. They had made 37 for 3 off 23 overs in reply to Kenya's all out total of 153 when their match was abandoned. At that point their run-rate was a paltry 1.61 compared to Kenya's 3.17, so victory was awarded to the Africans.

The defeat enabled Denmark to draw level on points with them in Group E by completing a thrilling seven-run win over Canada, but Scotland went through by virtue of having beaten Denmark by 45 runs in their first quarter- final game.

Alex Ritchie, general manager of the Scottish Cricket Union, said: "It is marvellous news and it means now that at least one team from the British Isles will qualify for the 1999 World Cup from this competition.

"We went into this tournament as one of the second seeds and it is a credit to the lads that we have proved the experts wrong.

"Our problem in recent years has been a lack of media attention but during this competition the support we have received has been amazing.

"Now we need to build on this and I am sure that it will encourage youngsters to take up the game which is one of our major aims."

The European champions, Ireland, cruised to a 51-run win over Hong Kong, making 223 for 78 in their 50 overs before dismissing Hong Kong for 172. The Irish now face one of the most important games of their history when they face Kenya.

The Ireland coach, Mike Hendrick, paid tribute to his team's performance. "I am absolutely delighted for the boys because they have been through a lot over the past year," he said. "Anything can happen in one-day cricket and although we now face the favourites Kenya, I know that they are beatable."

The former England pace bowler is confident about tomorrow's game despite his side having lost to the Africans by 119 runs earlier in the tournament.

He added: "I just hope that we use the memory of that game in a positive way and that it spurs the players on to get a different result this time. We played very badly in that game and we have got a point to prove on Sunday."

Robin Walsh, public relations officer for the Irish Cricket Union, said: "We now have two chances to get to the 1999 World Cup finals in England which would be a great moment for Irish cricket. We played Kenya in an earlier qualifying game and although we lost, at least we know what we are up against.

"Obviously they will start as favourites but I know the boys will be doing their best to get to the final. If both us and Scotland get through to the final it will be out of this world."

Bangladesh joined Scotland, Ireland and Kenya in the semi-finals when they defeated the Netherlands, World Cup finalists in 1996, on a faster scoring rate in a rain-reduced match.

The Netherlands made 171 all out in 49.5 overs and had Bangladesh at 56 for 4 when rain intervened. But when play resumed Bangladesh were given a revised target of 141 from 33 overs and they eased home with eight balls to spare.

Akram Khan's unbeaten 67 steered them home. The result means that Bangladesh finished level on points with Ireland at the top of Group F. Bangladesh took first place on run-rate and they will face Scotland on Tuesday while Ireland will meet Kenya on Sunday.

The Scots will return to Kuala Lumpur for the next year's Commonwealth Games tournament along with Bangladesh, Kenya and Canada as the top four commonwealth nations in the Trophy.

Malaysia earn an automatic entry into the 16-team competition in September 1998 as hosts. It will be the first time the sport has been played at the Commonwealth Games.

Eight of the 16 teams at the Commonwealth Games will be Test-playing nations. They are Australia, England, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

West Indies, the ninth, will be represented by the top three teams in their domestic Red Stripe competition.

Why cricket is so boring, page 21