Two from two as Ireland edge out UAE in tense finish
Thu, Feb 26, 2015 4:51 PM
Ireland made it two wins from two games at the start of their Group B campaign with a thrilling victory over the United Arab Emirates at the Gabba on Wednesday.
Following on from that much publicised opening victory against the West Indies in New Zealand last week, Phil Simmons' charges went into this one as the bookies' favourites, but boy did they keep their supporters on the edge of their seats before recording a last-over, two-wicket win.
It could and maybe should have been more comfortable for William Porterfield's men who looked set to wrap up the UAE innings in double quick time after the Ireland skipper won the toss and put his opponents in to bat.
Raffaelo Berenger and Amjad Ali negotiated opening spells from John Mooney and Max Sorensen quite well and it took the introduction of Paul Stirling to force the breakthrough for Ireland.
Stirling coaxed Berenger into a mistimed drive with the score on 49 and two overs later the same man had Krishna Karate snapped up by Kevin O'Brien at slip; the excellent catch coming off 'keeper Gary Wilson's knee and leading to the best celebration seen so far in the competition.
O'Brien was introduced into the attack himself at that point and he too was soon among the wickets, removing the dangerous looking Ali for 45 (5 fours) and then picking up Swapnil Patel for just 2 in his next over.
Khurram Khan, the best known of the Emirates batsmen was now in the middle and he and Shaiman Anwar began to rebuild the innings. This pair seemed to be getting bogged down in the middle overs but with four down early they had little alternative. It took a while for skipper Porterfield to turn to spinner George Dockrell but when he did, his bowler didn't let him down- trapping Khan leg before for 36 and moments later it was 131 for 6 as Alex Cusack had Rohan Mustafa caught behind for 2.
Ireland were cruising at this point but the innings turned on a wonderful World Cup record seventh wicket stand of 107 between Anwar and Amjad Javed who punished the Irish attack in the final 15 overs.
Anwar in particular was superb, cutting, driving and the odd wayward flash helping him to a first ever UAE century in the World Cup. Javed added a sprightly 42 before being caught in the deep by Ed Joyce and his partner's effort finally closed in the penultimate over having made 106 from just 83 balls (10 fours and a six).
Cusack removed Mohammad Naveed for 13 at the death as UAE closed on 278 for 9- the last 15 overs shipping 147 runs as the bowlers toiled.
Just as in the first game the "death" bowling was just too wayward for this level but once again Ireland just about got away with it. There were two wickets apiece for the impressive Stirling (2-27), Cusack (2-54), Sorensen (2-60) and O'Brien (2-61), with Dockrell claiming 1-39 from his 7 overs.
Ireland's reply got off to an horrendous start as Stirling edged one from Manjula Guruge's first over and was gone for 3. Ed Joyce joined his skipper at that stage and although this pair battled hard, the slow pace of the UAE attack was proving troublesome.
Joyce rode his luck- and how- clean bowled by Javed when he had 16 only for the bails to fall back into the groove on top of the stumps. The Dubliner kept going but rarely looked his fluent self and it was little surprise when he edged one from Javed for a valuable 37 and was caught by 'keeper Patel.
The spin of Mohammad Taquir had Ireland struggling and the Emirates bowler added to his side's advantage when accounting for Porterfield soon after for a 64-ball 37. The same bowler did for Niall O'Brien (17) in his next over as Ireland slumped to 97-4 before Andrew Balbirnie and Gary Wilson steadied the ship.
These two knew they had to keep wickets in hand so they batted patiently, adding a vital 74 before Balbirnie lobbed one to sub fielder Saqlain Haider and was out for 30. That took it to 171 for 5, still 108 short of the target but with the imposing figure of Kevin O'Brien striding to the middle.
In the next six overs O'Brien let the handbrake off the reply and raced to 50 from just 25 balls, belying the apparent dangers in the pitch and bringing up his half century with a huge six to long off.
Unfortunately for Ireland however he scooped the next one straight to Naveed at mid-off, having seemed set to take his side home. O'Brien's innings had changed the impetus however, 8 fours and 2 sixes that brought the win equation down to a much more manageable level.
Wilson was still there and the game twisted and turned again in the 47th over when he survived a very close lbw shout, unsuccessfully referred by the fielding skipper and then very next ball, John Mooney lobbed a simple catch to Ali as Ireland got themselves in another tangle.
That meant 21 needed from 3 overs with just 3 wickets in hand and having got it down to 12 from 2, Wilson tried to run one down to third man but got too much on it and Javed took a superb catch.
Alex Cusack and George Dockrell were now thrust into action and a lofted boundary from the spinner in the penultimate over released much of the pressure and got it down to three to win off the last. Much to Ireland's delight the same player then looped the winning runs off the second ball of the final over to send the Irish fans wild with delight.
A thrilling victory, perhaps a priceless one- time will tell- but a magnificent start to the tournament for the Boys in Green.