Ireland wins by nine wickets to leapfrog Namibia and Netherlands into second place

Tue, Mar 11, 2008 12:51 PM

Saqib Ali stroked a career-best 195 but his superlative innings was not enough to stop defending champion Ireland from coasting to a nine-wicket victory over the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the fourth and last day of the ICC Intercontinental Cup match at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Ali, who started this morning on 98 in UAE's 186-7, was the last man out after an epic 456-minute innings that lifted the home team to 306 in its second outing. It was enough to avert an innings defeat but not enough to change the result.

Ireland, which led by 246 runs on first innings and was set a target of 61, raced to victory in 14.2 overs for the loss of Paul Stirling (10).

William Porterfield (40) and Eoin Morgan (4) where the batsmen at the crease when victory was achieved which earned Ireland 20 points and put it in second place behind Kenya on 49 points from three matches.

However, the story of the day was Saqib Ali's who produced the second most sizzling knock of this event after Nambia's Gerrie Snyman who scored 81.56 per cent of his team's runs against Kenya while scoring 230 in Sharjah earlier this year.

Ali, who walked on to the pitch last evening with the score at 38-2, stood like a mountain throughout his 358-ball vigil that included 26 boundaries and four sixes. He was a model of concentration and application, and as long as he was at the crease, he kept UAE's slim hopes of escaping with a draw alive.

Such was the domination of Ali that in a partnership of 159 runs for the eighth wicket with Zahid Shah, the contribution of the latter was just 28 runs which was the second highest individual score in UAE's second innings.

Ali termed his innings as his best-ever. "It was the best innings I have played in my career. It was a pressure innings against a top Associate team. I think the key was the positive approach which I adopted and probably my shot selection was better than most of my team-mates.

"The only target I had in my mind when I resumed today was to bat as long as possible because I knew if I batted for two sessions or more, I would not only be able to get a big century but might also get my team out of jail.

"Zahid (Shah) gave me excellent support and showed that if we had batted more sensibly and cautiously, we would have managed a respectable draw."

However, Ali said he can draw a lot of positives out of this defeat. "The biggest positive is that we fought till the end and gave Ireland a run for their money. We are an inexperienced side and surely we are going to benefit a lot from the experience of this match.

"I have the highest respect for the Ireland team and I wish it all the very best in its three ODIs against Bangladesh and the rest of the tournament," Ali said.

For Ireland, Alex Cusack was the pick of bowlers with figures of 16.2-7-19-3 while Kyle McCallan took 3-104 and Greg Thompson snapped up 2-60.

Ireland will now travel to Dhaka where it will play three ODIs against Bangladesh on 18, 20 and 22 March while the UAE will take on the Netherlands in its last league match in Sharjah from 3-6 April.

The next match in the tournament involves the Netherlands and Namibia and will be played in Windhoek, Namibia from 27 to 30 March.

The ICC Intercontinental Cup has quickly grown in stature and profile since its inception three years ago. As the ICC's premier first-class tournament it is an integral part of the Associate Members' cricket schedule.

Having previously been designed around a two-group, three-day format, the event has evolved into an eight-team, round-robin and truly global tournament featuring four-day cricket which gives those teams which do not play Test cricket the chance to experience the longer form of the game.

Scotland won the first ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004, beating Canada in the final, while Ireland has been victorious in both events since then, beating Kenya in the 2005 decider and Canada in the 2006-07 event.

The final of the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2007-08 will take place in November 2008 at a venue yet to be decided.

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