Ian Callender, Newsletter (Belfast)
A FRUSTRATING last wicket stand of 44 held up Ireland on the opening day of their Inter-Continental Cup game against Scotland at Mannofield but they are still comfortably placed to gain the vital first innings advantage.
In humid, overcast conditions first thing, Ireland won the toss and then bowled out the home side for 265 before closing on 43 for one, Jeremy Bray again the batsman out as his poor run of form continued.
William Porterfield, though, confidently came through the 14 overs Ireland faced and in company with Andre Botha is there to resume this morning. It would be churlish to say that Botha's bowling was missed but, as expected, the back-up to the skipper, Trent Johnston, and the herculean Dave Langford-Smith was found wanting.
D L-S's shoulders may not be as broad as at the start of the season but they are still big enough to carry this Ireland attack and in 20 overs of high-class swing bowling he dismissed half the Scotland team for a cost of just 65 runs. Johnston finished with two wickets, John Mooney took the last wicket and Kyle McCallan did all that he was asked in 10 overs of accurate off-spin.
Indeed, when Ireland's most capped player - he is making his 145th appearance in this game - took the seventh Scotland wicket with just 161 on the board, Ireland were not being greedy in expecting to need only 200 to get the first six points (for first innings lead) of the match.
However, former Yorkshire paceman John Blain, first in partnership with his captain, Craig Wright, then briefly with 'one four and out' Paul Hoffman and finally Ross Lyons, added 104 for the last three wickets.
Wright took a blow on the thumb from Langford-Smith during his innings and with the Scots "almost resigned to him playing no further part in the match - the best case scenario is bad bruising - Ireland have one less bowler to worry about.
The standard that everyone has to reach, however, has been set by Langford-Smith. After Johnston had removed Frazer Watts with the first ball of his second over, D L-S removed opening partner Neil MacRae with a ball that hit his middle stump.
Gavin Hamilton, determined not be tied down, hit two fours but then edged D L-S to second slip and "Buckets" Johnston held the catch. The other big name in the Scottish line-up, Warwickshire's Dougie Brown, followed four overs later, after a fine edge to Niall O'Brien. At that stage D L-S had three for 23 and deserved his rest.
It was to be another 21 overs before Ireland made their next breakthough as Ryan Watson and Neil McCallum doubled the score. It should have been only nine overs but O'Brien dived too far to catch an edge from Watson, off Johnston, and spilled the catch in front of Botha. Fortunately for Ireland, it put the frighteners on Watson who was dealing almost exclusively in boundaries at that stage (14 fours in his 60). His next 14 runs used up 35 balls before he mistimed a pull to long leg and Langford-Smith (who else?) took a fine running catch.
McCallan then entered the fray and with the last ball of his first over he had his near namesake trapped in front and two overs later O'Brien made up for his earlier mistake with an individual piece of brilliance - scooping the ball off the ground - to stump Colin Smith.
The intervention of Andrew White, albeit for only two overs, and Bray failed to hurry the Scottish innings to its conclusion but it was a highly satisfactory day for the visitors, spoilt only by Bray's dismissal eight overs before the close.