Ireland dominate Day 1
It could have been a tight, exciting match; a great display of what associate cricket can contribute. It could have been a struggle between bat and ball, going all the way to the afternoon of the last day. But with what happened on day 1, it would take one of the greatest comebacks in history to get any kind of contest out of this match.
After winning the toss, Trent Johnston and his Irish side chose to bowl first, to take advantage of a greenish wicket in Leicester. David Langford-Smith got the ball rolling by trapping former Canadian captain John Davison lbw for naught in the first over of the match, and that was only the beginning.
The greentop did what one would expect it to, seaming around dramatically. Coupled with some lack of application from the Canadian bats, it led to many leg-before and bowled dismissals as batsmen played and missed. The only resistance - and the term is used loosely here - from Canada came from Abdool Samad (29) who looked as though he may steady the top order before going down lbw to Johnston, and Umar Bhatti, whose unbeaten 22 showed that he is continuing to improve his batting to go with his already strong bowling.
However, those two were the only Canadians to reach double-digit scoring, and at the luncheon interval Canada had reached a paltry 75/9. Kevin O'Brien took 2 wickets in the last over before lunch to confirm the utter destruction that had been the opening session. Trent Johnston picked up the final wicket, needing just 4 balls after the break to clean up Henry Osinde, and Canada's score was confirmed at 92 all out. Johnston led the bowlers, ending up with 4 wickets for 12 runs (bowling just 9.4 overs), while debutant Thinus Fourie picked up 3 wickets as well.
The score of 92 is Canada's record low in Intercontinental Cup play, and a real disappointment for a side that had made great strides in the last year. But one never knows - perhaps the wicket would give the same help to the Canadian seamers as it afforded the Irish. It did not.
The Irish openers, Bray and Porterfield, showed their greater experience with green wickets and started very cautiously. The first two overs went without a run - but also without so much as a thought of a wicket falling. As they got their respective eyes in, they started to open up and did so with a great amount of flair. They reached 97 for no loss at the tea break, already having secured a first-innings lead, which would give them the trophy should the match be drawn.
As the pitch continued to flatten throughout the day, the Canadian bowling became increasingly impotent and the Irish bats flourished. The breakthrough - if it can be called that - finally came about midway through the final session when a clearly tired Bray was caught at slip off the bowling of John Davison. Tired, becaue he had just made 146 off just 156 balls, including 27 boundaries and 1 six. Two balls later, Abdool Samad induced an edge from Porterfield, which was taken by Bagai, and suddenly both openers were gone. But by then, the score was already on 202, and the match was pretty close to being over (figuratively speaking).
Peter Gillespie and Eoin Morgan began trying to negotiate the remaining overs cautiously, realising the dominating position that the openers had staked them to. They did not have the aggression of the batsmen that had gone before them, but they were very careful to keep their wickets as they began their innings. After he hit double digits, Gillespie tried to open up, and ended up opening himself up to being trapped lbw by Abdool Samad. But the rest of the day was uneventful, and at the close of play Ireland had reached a neat 250 for 3 from 62 overs.
It's not often that a first class match is as decisively placed after one day, but this one surely is. Ireland's bowlers had a spectacular morning (and Canada's batsmen were equally poor), and the Irish batsmen were ruthless in accruing an already sizable first-innings lead. At this point, it would take a truly improbable sequence of events to see this match even going into a fourth day, let alone being a competitive match going that far.