Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
The perfect bowling performance ensured Ireland qualified for tomorrow's finals day at the inaugural Desert T20 tournament with a comfortable 24 runs victory over UAE.
Captain William Porterfield said after their long-awaited win in the shortest format against Namibia on Tuesday that the team had the momentum to make it back to back wins and Boyd Rankin, Craig Young and Kevin O'Brien delivered with five wickets in the first four overs to reduce the hosts to 21 for five, in pursuit of Ireland's 160 for six.
A few lusty blows, including three sixes in the last over, surprisingly bowled by Paul Stirling, made the result much closer than it was and Ireland can finally approach a T20 match with confidence.
Rankin missed Tuesday's game the last in Abu Dhabi before the tournament moved to the Dubai International Stadium for the final three days with a minor back problem and the way he steamed in for his first two overs yesterday proved it was only a precautionary measure. Josh Little was the unlucky bowler to make way as Ireland used their third different opening attack in three games.
It always helps when you take a wicket with the first ball of the match, as Rankin did, and when Craig Young also struck with his first delivery, thanks to a sharp catch at slip, the current Bready player matched his illustrious predecessor for pace in an impressive new ball partnership.
Not that Porterfield took them for granted. After Rankin had taken his second and third wickets with his eighth and ninth balls, Young was immediately replaced by O'Brien for the fourth over and Kevin needed only four deliveries to get among the wickets, wrecking the middle stump of Mohammad Shahzad.
Hard work done, the spinners came on to keep it tight well, two of them, Andy McBrine was not even used and Mulder continued his happy knack of taking wickets to ensure no late scares for Ireland.
The batting scorecard, in truth, looks better on paper than in reality as Stuart Poynter was dropped first ball, Paul Stirling survived chances on 10 and 31 and there 21 dot balls' in the powerplay (the first six overs). But with the help of two sixes and two fours from Stirling they still reached 43 for one and when Kevin O'Brien and Gary Wilson started hitting sixes for fun (they shared five) in the 12th and 13th over Ireland were in control.
And that was without Porterfield who, after eight scoreless deliveries was put out of his misery by a catch at mid-wicket. But that was as low it got for Ireland on the day the captain was able to celebrate his 50th win in Twenty20.internationals.
Two more will be top of the the agenda on Friday.