IRELAND’S progress to the Super Six stage of the World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe was even easier than expected as UAE again proved canon-fodder for William Porterfield’s side whose 226 runs (DLS) victory was their biggest in a one-day international.

The captain, along with Paul Stirling, put on a record ODI partnership for the first wicket of 205 and after that it was not if but when Ireland would complete the first part of their mission to reach the finals in England next year.

The hard work starts on Friday with a game against the hosts, with matches against Scotland and Afghanistan to follow, the Afghans still keeping their outside hopes of a finals place alive by making the Super Six through the back door, after Nepal defeated Hong Kong.

But this Ireland squad, who were only a couple of missed opportunities away from toppling tournament favourites West Indies on Saturday, will go into the next stage with confidence and in the knowledge they have beaten all three opponents in their last meetings.

And it is a squad because not only did Barry McCarthy return, as expected, but Simi Singh came in as the second spinner as Ireland made two changes, one of them enforced as Gary Wilson was back in England yesterday morning alongside his wife for the birth of their first child, a son born during the game at the Old Hararians Sports Club.

Wilson is due back for the game against Zimbabwe but it will be hard to dislodge either of the two replacements. McCarthy picked up his usual two wickets – for the sixth successive international – and Singh took three for 15 after Andy McBrine had gone wicketless in his six overs.

The bowling star yesterday, however, was Boyd Rankin, who was much too hostile for the UAE middle-order, taking four wickets in 10 balls to finish with career best ODI figures of 4-15.

The first ball of his third over was short and straight and captain Rohan Mustafa could only fend it to fly slip. Two balls later the gully fielder was in the action and in Rankin's next over, either side of drinks, two more batsmen perished with hurried pull shots into the leg side.

As Porterfield said afterwards: “He is fantastic for us coming on after the new ball and he can change games at any time.” He will be a huge threat to every team in the next stage.

Stirling is the other match-winner in this team and after looking good but getting out early in the first three games, this time he made no mistake, scoring his seventh ODI century from 106 balls with 12 fours and three sixes and then adding another five boundaries in his next nine balls to reach 126, a scored bettered in ODIs for Ireland only four times.

Porterfield was the first to go, dismissed, remarkably, for the first time in the 90s – in his 279th innings for Ireland – eight short of his century but Kevin O’Brien continued the onslaught with a 26-ball 50, which featured seven fours and a six.

It really was men against boys but as a confidence booster for the tougher challenges ahead, it was the perfect day.