Three steps to heaven for Ireland
THREE STEPS TO HEAVEN FOR IRELAND
Ireland are just three wins away from their fourth successive World Cup after a record-breaking 226 run win (DLS) against a hapless UAE in Harare.
Paul Stirling and William Porterfield shared an Irish ODI record opening stand of 205 at a run a ball which enabled the Boys In Green to post their 7th highest team ODI total, despite losing six overs due to two rain interruptions.
Stirling was at his belligerent best, thumping his trademark drives time and time again through the off side, and punishing anything remotely short with a series of increasingly vicious pulls and hooks.
He struck 15 fours and cleared the ropes five times as he reached his 7th ODI century and 11th in all formats for Ireland before being dismissed on 126.
Skipper Porterfield had looked destined to also make a hundred but fell for 92 – the first time in 279 innings that he has been dismissed in the not so nervous 90’s for the Donemana man. He had to be content with his 39th half century for Ireland.
Kevin O’Brien was promoted up the order and justified the elevation by inflicting further punishment on the beleaguered Emirati attack. The Dubliner smashed 7 fours and a six in a quickfire 50 from just 26 balls – his 32nd half century - as Ireland posted 313 for 6, which was adjusted upwards by DLS leaving UAE an unlikely 318 to win.
Barry McCarthy, who along with Simi Singh came into the side to replace Gary Wilson (on parental leave*) and George Dockrell, shared the new ball duties with Tim Murtagh, both striking early blows.
UAE had recovered to 65 for 2, but the introduction of Boyd Rankin soon had their reply in tatters. Rankin claimed four wickets in quick succession to rip the heart out of the middle order on his way to claiming his best ODI figures.
The contest was as good as over and Simi Singh (3-15) mopped up the lower order as the UAE were bundled out for 91 – their lowest total in ODI’s and their record defeat.
“It's nice to come back from that West Indies loss and put in a good team performance,” said Man of the Match Stirling.
“We knew coming into today we needed, I think, four wins from four to get through hopefully. So that is still on track, but now just three to go.
“I’ve felt in good nick, it was good to go on and get a big score. I've worked pretty hard, so I'm happy I've been able to put in a match winning performance for the team today.
Stirling paid tribute to the influence of Boyd Rankin and the extra dimension the Bready man gives to the bowling unit.
“Boyd makes a massive difference for us. I think it's because he usually comes on after the power play.
“From an opening batters point of view it can be tricky having seen out the first ten overs but then you come up against someone like Boyd bouncing in at 6'7" with four men back. He's a real asset for us.”
Ireland now progress to the Super Six phase of the tournament carrying through two points and the best Net Run Rate.
They will play hosts Zimbabwe on Friday and Scotland on Sunday – those two played out a dramatic last over tie in Bulawayo as Scotland lost their last two wickets with just two needed, so both take three points through.
Their final game is on Friday 23rd against Afghanistan, who pipped Nepal and Hong Kong on run rate, although they will be handicapped by not having any points to bring into the second stage.
West Indies top the Super Six table with four points after beating Netherlands, who self-destructed after getting them into a strong position, suffering two run outs and a stumping at a crucial juncture just before rain ended the game.
The UAE were the beneficiaries to progress through, but given their zero points tally and poor NRR situation, it would require something miraculous for them to make the World Cup.
*Congratulations to Gary and Jennifer Wilson on the birth of their first child, Oliver Eliott Wilson.
IRELAND v UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, WCQ ODI, Harare
Ireland 313-6 (44 overs; P Stirling 126, W Porterfield 92, K O’Brien 50*; M Naveed 3-84)
UAE 91 all out (29.3 overs; B Rankin 4-15, S Singh 3-15, B McCarthy 2-26)
Ireland won by 226 runs (DLS method)