Five days after the tournament in Nairobi the Irish team were in Abu Dhabi for a vital Intercontinental Cup match against United Arab Emirates. Only a win would allow Ireland through to the final, where they would play Canada, and give themselves the opportunity to defend the cup won in 2005 in Namibia. Any other result and Scotland would win the section and go through to the final. The team pulled itself together, broke all kinds of records, and won the match by an innings.
Of the squad, Niall O'Brien was unavailable for this match. He had been reported to the match referee after an incident in the Scottish match in this competition and was suspended for one match in this competition. This was that match. Of the remaining 14, Carroll and the two Mooney brothers were left out.
Day 1 - Robin Walsh of Sunday Life
Ireland's batsmen Eoin Morgan and Andre Botha wrote their names into the record books in capital letters yesterday with the biggest partnership in the history of Irish cricket. In the incongruous setting of a magnificent stadium in arid desert land of Abu Dhabi they have boosted their side's prospects of reaching the final of the Intercontinental Cup as well as helping the rehabilitation process after the trials of the World League in Nairobi.
At the end of the first of the games four days the two left-handers had soared Ireland to the dizzy heights of 461-2. Both were undefeated in a partnership of 323, Morgan with 182 off 200 balls and Botha with 136 off 190 balls. The brilliance of their performance deserved to take Ireland to the final of the Intercontinental Cup against Canada later this year. Yet there is no guarantee it will. The Sheikh Zayed Stadium houses a pitch that is true and flat and Ireland need an outright win to gain a place in the final. I suspect that the Irish game plan will be to return to the middle in the morning and declare just before lunch, thus amassing enough runs as not to require a second innings. It would then be over to the bowlers to take 20 wickets, bowlers who are short on confidence after their experiences in Kenya. It will not be automatic.
Should Morgan and Botha resume their partnership, as I expect them to do, Morgan will have his sights set on Ivan Anderson's long-standing Irish record of 198 not out. At the tender age of 20, his partnership with Botha beats the record of 304 set by Jeremy Bray and Niall O'Brien, again against United Arab Emirates, two years ago in Namibia. And with three centuries already under his belt, the current one is his highest, who is to say what lies ahead for him.
Those centurions of Kenya, Jeremy Bray, leg before wicket playing back for 82, and William Porterfield caught cutting for 46, had laid the foundation for Ireland's grand total when Botha and Morgan came together at 138-2. Their partnership was delightful, displaying the style vested in the good left-hander. Both reached their centuries without giving a chance, indeed only one chance was offered at all when Botha was dropped at cover on 105. In the main, they played "on the carpet" with but one six from Morgan between them. But the boundaries came regularly, 22 from Morgan, 12 from Botha, to hoist the run rate to almost 5 an over at the end of the day. That will be an important factor. In this "long game" time will be of the essence.
Day 2 - Ian Callender, Newsletter.
Ireland are just 11 wickets away from a second successive Intercontinental Cup final. After two days in the awe-inspiring Sheikh Zayed Stadium, they lead the United Arab Emirates by 309 and their hosts have already lost nine first innings wickets. February 11th, 2007, however will go down as the day when Eoin Morgan made the highest individual innings for Ireland, a batsman finally surpassing Ivan Anderson's seemingly impregnable total of 198, made on the tour to the United States and Canada in 1973. Many batsmen have tried in the intervening years - more that 350 matches have been completed since then - but, until yesterday, no-one had come closer than Jeremy Bray's 190, in this competition 16 months ago.
That was the first target in his sights when Morgan resumed his innings in perfect conditions, 182 not out after the first day when Ireland had amassed 461-2 in 96 overs. The slaughter, though, was only just beginning. The second run of the morning took Ireland to their highest ever total, a record that has stood for 114 years, and then Andre Botha, almost a forgotten man in Ireland's highest ever partnership, passed his previous best score for his adopted country, 139 in the C. & G. Trophy four years ago. The next landmark was the biggest ever stand in the Intercontinental Cup, 331, and then, at 10.19 a.m., Morgan nudged Khurram Khan round the corner and ran the single that brought him his 199th run and into Irish history. It was a chanceless innings that brought this tribute from his captain Trent Johnston. "He thoroughly deserves to be the record holder. We were going to bat on for a further 15 minutes but I could only see him getting out and slogging and he didn't deserve that. So we pulled out early. But the kids class and it's unfortunate we probably won't see him for the C. & G. games because Middlesex will want him. But the World Cup should be a great stage for him." Botha did not quite see Morgan to his record, the 20 year-old Middlesex batsman was still four runs short when Andre, on 157, failed to clear mid-off and it was Kevin O'Brien who had the honour of being the first to congratulate Eoin on his landmark. O'Brien was bowled before Morgan reached 200 and the declaration finally came, at 531-5, at the fall of Johnston's wicket, caught at long-off.
Scoring runs on one of the flattest pitches Ireland have ever batted on was always going to be the easy bit, helped by some poor UAE fielding and even worse throwing. The big task facing Ireland was to remove batsmen who had shown against Scotland in last month's draw in Sharjah they could "hang around". After the bowling horrors of Kenya, this was just what the captain and coach ordered. Gone were the short hittable balls, gone were the nervous run-ins, gone, gone, gone were the long hops and full tosses. This was as disciplined a performance as Ireland have managed in many a year, with no-one better than Boyd Rankin. The big Derbyshire paceman was restricted to just four overs at the World League in Kenya but here was a new lease of life to the Ireland attack and his team-mates responded. He had the home batsmen jumping about and, in spite of the dead track, his extra height brought pace and bounce. He deserved more than the one wicket he took, a catch in the gully. Johnston and Dave Langford-Smith, more predictably, took rather longer to find their length but the skipper in his last spell, admittedly when six wickets were already down, bowled seven overs for just seven runs and the late two wickets set him up perfectly from the start of the second innings.
Kyle McCallan bowled seven consecutive maidens in his first eight overs to gain control over the UAE batsman which was never relinquished. Only Arshad Ali, the captain, stayed for any length of time but he should have been dismissed twice in the first two overs after lunch. First McCallan got his hands to, but could not hold, a pull to mid-wicket off Andrew White and then Kyle had a huge appeal for a bat-pad catch turned down by the UAE umpire who was in the middle for two overs after the resumption. Botha was not introduced until the 54th over, he had a stomach problem, but he took two wickets in his only six overs of the day and then limped off to get an ice pack on his swelling ankle, which was hit on his follow through by a powerful drive. Ireland's most consistent bowler is likely to prove a big asset in the second innings. McCallan may have put down a catch but he ended Arshad's innings with the best fielding of the day, a direct hit from mid-wicket and Morgan also completed his day to remember with a more straightforward run-out, when both batsmen ended up at the same end. Naeemuddin was turning down singles and protecting the number 11 batsman for the last five overs of the day but it appeared a futile exercise. Another repeat by the Ireland bowlers today could wrap this game up with a day to spare and leave them looking forward to another four-day game in May.
Day 3 - Ian Callender, Newsletter.
Mission accomplished with a day and a session to spare! On the stroke of the tea interval yesterday, Ireland completed victory in their Intercontinental group decider against UAE and condemned Scotland, their last over conquerors at the World League in Kenya, to the runners-up position. For the moment it will not rid the squad of the bitter disappointment of their results in Nairobi but Ireland's biggest ever victory in 629 games, by an innings and 170 runs, has certainly lessened the pain and the holders will attempt to repeat their final success in 2005 when they face Canada in three months time. The venue has still to be decided but, after the bowler's herculean performance on this flat track at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, it should be even easier for them in the four-day final, probably on May 17-20, their free weekend from Friends Provident Cup commitments against the counties.
Towering literally head and shoulders above his team-mates yesterday was Boyd Rankin who, fittingly, won the match with a yorker on middle stump. The 6'8" Bready paceman, looking forward to a second contracted season with Derbyshire, took three of the last four wickets to finish with his best figures for Ireland, 4-56. His steep bounce repeatedly caused the batsmen problems and although he conceded 3.5 runs an over, with Ireland having so many runs to spare, attack was the order of the day and he got the rewards denied him in his equally impressive first innings spells.
Resuming on 207-9 in their first innings, the UAE's last pair, with Naeemuddin again hogging the strike, hung around for 22 minutes before Trent Johnston had number 11 Ahmed Raza leg before, offering no stroke. The first innings deficit was 288, so, 10 minutes later, Johnston and David Langford-Smith were bowling again. The latter sent down only a token two overs before Rankin teamed up with the captain but the pre-lunch session belonged to Johnston. He took three wickets in six balls to reduce the UAE to 12-3 and even at that stage the Ireland players must have been planning a day's shopping. Arshad Ali, the top scorer in the first innings, was the first to go this time, leg before, and then his new opening partner - Naeemuddin did not even bother taking his pads off - was dismissed to an astonishing catch on the square leg boundary by Peter Gillespie, diving spectacularly to his right and holding on, even after crashing to the ground. Jeremy Bray then took his first catch of the innings and, at the end of his spell, Johnston had figures of 3-8 from eight overs. After his sickness and errant bowling in Kenya the captain was well and truly back, leading from the front.
With the last ball before lunch, Kevin O'Brien, in his first over of the match, got one to nip back and Saqib Ali was palpably leg before. At slip, Johnson punched the air three times and lunch tasted much nicer than anything before on this five-week trip. On the resumption, Kashif Khan faced 28 balls without threatening to score and he then gave Rankin his first wicket with the second ball of his comeback spell. Shadeep Silva, who opened in the first innings, finally came in at number seven and, along with the Emirates' best batsman, Khurram Khan, put up seven overs of resistance and scored at four runs an over. The introduction of Kyle McCallan proved the beginning of the end. The off spinner terminated the sixth wicket stand via a catch at mid-off and with both he and Rankin in the groove, the tail were not going to last long. Six overs to be precise as Bray held two more catches, the last with a grasp and dive to match Gillespie's earlier effort and sealed two very good days behind the stumps for the big Aussie. Maybe Ireland will not have to look elsewhere after all for the one-day action when Niall O'Brien, suspended for this match, joins Northants. Andre Botha bowled eight overs and while he didn't take a wicket, in only two overs did runs come off the bat, summing up Ireland's stranglehold on the game. And Andrew White, who bowled Saqib, the scourge of the Scots in their drawn game in Sharjah last month, was not even needed. National Coach Adrian Birrell was insisting for the last week there was nothing too much wrong with the bowling. Here, they proved him right in spectacular style. Scotland could not bowl this opposition out twice. Ireland had taken 20 wickets on the flattest pitch imaginable in 132 overs. Bring on Canada.
The Man-of-the-Match Award went, unsurprisingly, to Ireland's Eoin Morgan.