Scotland had two wickets and two balls to spare over Ireland after a thrilling finish to their Triple Crown clash at Castle Avenue yesterday. When Scotland lost their eighth wicket at 170 on the first ball of the 43rd over, still needing 61 for victory, there was every hope that Ireland would break a sequence of losses going back to 1993.
However, number seven batsman Craig Wright, and perennial spin tormentor Keith Sheridan, found the diet of medium pace bowling to their liking. Wright was finding the middle of the bat at will, and 66, including eight fours and 16, from 50 balls played earned him the Man-of-the-Match Award.
Except for the early loss of Peter Davy, Ireland were going along nicely until Neil Carson, Andy Patterson, and Ed Joyce all perished with the score not moving from 68. Dunlop then anchored the innings, allowing debutant Barry Archer the rein and he made hay with 39, including six fours, from 59 balls. When Archer lost out to a great catch by Lockhart at mid-wicket they had put on 96 for the fifth wicket, pushing the score to 164 with almost 10 overs remaining.
Gordon Cooke, Ryan Eagleson and Paul Mooney, however, were back in the clubhouse before they had got warmed up and Dwayne McGerrigle, through some good shots and much good fortune, helped Dunlop put on 54 in the remaining 6.2 overs.
The relative scores at 30 and 40 overs illustrate how finely balanced the contest was. At 30 overs Ireland were 115-4 to Scotland's 124-3; and after 40 overs Ireland were 164-5 and Scotland 158-4.
Ireland must beat Wales at Rathmines today and hope that England ECB upset Scotland to set up a thrilling finale into the series tomorrow.
"O Waly waly up the bank/and waly waly down the brae"-Robert Burns was lamenting the loss of his true love, but his lines reflected the emotion of Ireland's cricketers at Castle Avenue yesterday, as the Scots won their opening Triple Crown match by two wickets and with just two balls to spare. An engrossing contest, sure enough, but Ireland's failure to put away an understrength side which contained just three of Scotland's World Cup squad, James Brinkley, Asim Butt and Keith Sheridan, was hugely disappointing. Sheridan was the member of that trio who played a major part in this victory, coming in to join Man-of-the-Match, Craig Wright when Scotland were teetering on the edge of the abyss, on 170-8 in the 43rd over needing 61 runs to win.
Sheridan contributed a steadfast 18 off 22 deliveries as Wright hit the winning boundary off the fourth ball of the final over from Gordon Cooke, to top-score with an unbeaten 66, from 50 balls, his magnificent innings including one six and eight fours.
Ireland's fortunes during Scotland's innings fluctuated. Ryan Eagleson removed Frazer Watts in the first over and Dwayne McGerrigle bowled Dougie Lockhart in the second with just seven runs scored, before Bryn Lockie and Drew Parsons stopped the rot with a 48-run stand, followed by the 77-run fourth-wicket partnership of Parsons and Smith, which Cooke ended by trapping Smith LBW, leaving the Scots on 132-4 in the 32nd over.
James Brinkley, Parsons (87 deliveries, six fours, 55 runs), Scott Gourlay and Gregor Maiden then departed rapidly, courtesy of good bowling by Eagleson and McGerrigle, and an end to Ireland's six-year losing sequence to the opposition was in sight. But the superb Wright, well aided by Sheridan, was up to the challenge. Only that Great Umpire in the Sky knows just why the economic Matt Dwyer and Barry Archer were not recalled to the attack.
Earlier, Archer scored a fine 39, off 55 balls with six fours, on his Ireland debut, with useful contributions from Ed Joyce and Neil Carson. Angus Dunlop played a vital captain's role with an undefeated 56, off 113 balls, with one six and four fours, and with gutsy help from McGerrigle put on 54 runs for Ireland's last unbroken stand, without which, be it said, the match would have ended far earlier, with consequent gain to the Clontarf club's bar receipts.