Ireland certainly had the better of the first day of the three-day match against Scotland at Ormeau yesterday closing at 134-3 which was only 22 behind Scotland's first innings total of 156. No doubt Irish skipper Angus Dunlop would like to bat on into this afternoon and he has every chance of establishing a good lead to put severe pressure on the Scots as the moisture was quickly leaving the pitch as the sun shone all day. The worry about going into this fixture without at least one spinner was unnecessary as events turned out, with five seamers bowling very steadily and causing the visitors all sorts of problems.
Seven Scottish batsmen were bowled, two lost out to LBW decisions and one was caught as Dwayne McGerrigle took 4-24 and debutant Adrian McCoubrey 3-38, John Davy 2-38 and Gordon Cooke 1-25. The Scots could have been out even more cheaply had two catches been held at third slip. Their top scorer George Salmond, 46, was only on seven when he was spilled by McGerrigle and John Brinkley, 34, had only two to his name when Carson failed to hold him.
Ireland had a tentative start to their reply losing Barry Archer for two as he skied to mid-off and Peter Davy, suffering from a heavy cold, chased a slower ball that was moving away and was caught in the gully with only three on the board. Neil Carson was the other loss, scoring 24 before departing with the total on 56 in the 24th over. The recalled Peter Gillespie constructed a workmanlike 36 not out and skipper Angus Dunlop was in his element at the close on 45 not out, 12 of which came from two mighty sixes.
Angus Dunlop celebrated his 101st cap in some style in notching up 112 and is in the happy position of being virtually certain to lead Ireland to victory in the three-day match against Scotland which ends at Ormeau today.
When Ireland dismissed Scotland for 155 in their second innings, it meant that they only had to score 42 for a first victory over their fellow Celts in any form of the game for six years, and, although there are 37 runs required today, it should be a formality with nine wickets in hand. Credit for this must go to John Davy and Paul Mooney for the way in which they worked out the Scots late yesterday. Mooney was not brought on until the 35th over, but it was worth the wait as he produced an inspired spell of tight bowling. He finished with 4-12 and Davy with 3-33 but the earlier efforts of Dwayne McGerrigle, Adrian McCoubrey and Gordon Cooke must not be overlooked.
Dunlop had resumed on 45 yesterday and the only worries en-route to his third century for Ireland were two loud and lengthy enquiries for caught behind off the bowling of Asim Butt when he was on 90. The book shows that he faced 176 balls, hitting six sixes and eight fours before he got the notion of reverse sweeping off-spinner Nick Dyer, but only gloved it in the year to enhance wicket-keeper's Stubbs career catches.
This was Dunlop's maiden first class ton, and his other two Irish scorers in the three figure column were 101 against South Africa at Castle Avenue last year, and his best of 148 against the MCC at Malahide three years ago.
With such a long day (104 overs) in prospect, it was surprising that Peter Gillespie and Dunlop tried to force the pace from the off yesterday. The Strabane all-rounder perished LBW attempting a sweep after adding just four to his overnight 36, and the skipper could have quite easily also departed under a couple of laws in the early morning sun. However, I'm sure the coach Bobby Rao, who has fostered a very good spirit in the squad in so little time, will have slept soundly last night concerned only that a threatened break in the weather could rob him of victory in his first match in charge of Ireland.
Ireland's international season finished with a flourish at Ormeau yesterday when Paul Mooney drilled a four to long off to secure victory over Scotland by four wickets. The 69 minutes required to knock off the 37 runs needed on the third day were anything but enjoyable as five more wickets fell due as much to the tension of the occasion as to some very fine bowling by the experienced Asim Butt and James Brinkley.
When the score was six runs for three wickets down after only seven deliveries it became clear that every lesson passed on by Mike Hendrick and Bobby Rao, the man in charge for this match, at least would be drawn on.
The day started with Barry Archer turning Butt in front of square but three balls later Peter Davy misread the line and was out LBW with Archer caught behind off Brinkley three balls later. Skipper Angus Dunlop, however, got us back on track with a swift 15 before he was caught at long leg. The score was then 29-4 and there were further hiccups when Peter Gillespie fell to a brilliant catch at second slip with the score at 31 and Peter Shields losing an LBW decision first ball.
Gordon Cooke had, by this stage, sensibly dropped anchor allowing Mooney the freedom to end the season in style with the statistics showing that Ireland had won five, drawn three and lost six in the sporting match season.