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Match Report
Derek Scott

A rapid return to Stormont for Scotland, they having played Ireland there in the quadrangular tournament only some three weeks previously. In fact that match was Ireland's last game of the season to date.

This was a match of many phases and some records. There was never any possibility of a result over two innings after Scotland batted deep into the second day to score 314 in 148.4 overs, followed by a blank third day due to rain. When Ireland were 59-4 on the second day, Scotland might have sniffed a chance but two huge partnerships followed this poor Irish start. At 3:30 p.m. on day four, Ireland were one run ahead with some 2 hours left. A declaration at that point might have been worthwhile and there could have been a Scottish collapse and perhaps some excitement. It must be admitted, however, that this was very unlikely.

Scotland had won the first Intercontinental Cop and Ireland had won the next two. This match was Ireland's first in defence of the cup and the chance of a hat-trick of wins. The format of the tournament had changed again somewhat. Now while there were still 8 countries involved worldwide, instead of being divided into two groups they would all now play each other over a period of a year/18 months. There would then be a final between the two teams which topped the league table. The seven other teams involved are Scotland and Netherlands from Europe, Namibia and Kenya from Africa, United Arab Emirates from the Middle East and Canada and Bermuda from the Americas.

From the previous match against Scotland Ireland left out Fourie (who was made 12th man for this game) and Kidd and brought in White and Thompson. The latter's last match for Ireland was in 2005. Two weeks earlier Scotland had beaten Netherlands by an innings in this competition but had to travel to Ireland with a much changed team due to the unavailability of a number of players. In fact, only three remained from the team which had beaten Holland, Watson, McCallum and Blain. All of the other eight had played against Ireland before except for Berrington whose first game against us this was. On the first day Ireland wore black armbands in memory of Billy McCarroll who had died recently and who had been Secretary of the Northern Cricket Union for over 20 years.

The first day was sunny with a warm breeze. The pitch was hard and fast and, indeed, gave very little bowler assistance throughout the match. Each day was scheduled from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. but a minimum of 96 overs were to be bowled and play could be extended until 6:30 p.m. to allow this to happen. Scotland won the toss and batted. Knox and MacRae opened to the bowling of Langford-Smith and Johnston. They each had three slips and a gully and only two leg side fielders, mid-on and long-leg. Langford-Smith's third ball was a wide, as usual, and in his 27 overs in this innings he never generated his usual fast pace. In the fifth over MacRae snicked Langford-Smith for four to the right of wicketkeeper O'Brien and low-down, the ball pitching just in front of his gloves. Both batsmen hit a four in the first 10 overs. The opening bowlers bowled six overs each, but the score after 12 overs was only 21. This was a rate of scoring which was to persist, more or less, all-day. Botha and Kevin O'Brien came on and (including one from Langford-Smith who replaced Botha for one over) nine maiden overs were bowled in succession. In the fourth of these overs O'Brien, with the first ball of his second over, the 16th, had MacRae lbw. 21-1-9. MacRae had faced 46 balls for his 9 runs, scoring off only four of them.

Watson, the Scottish captain, was next. He hit O'Brien for an extra cover four in over 22, at the end of this nine maiden over spell, opening his score off the 23rd ball he faced. Johnston came back for over 24 and Cusack came on for over 25. Each batsman hit a four. Then, in over 28, Watson hooked a short ball from Johnston. Cusack did not have to move at long-leg to take the catch. 42-2-9. Watson faced 40 deliveries but he did hit two fours. Hamilton, left-hander, joined Knox and lunch came after 30 overs with the score on 50-2. A four from Hamilton had brought up 50 two balls before lunch. Knox was 17, off 87 balls, and Hamilton four.

The lunch break brought two wickets but not until six more overs had been bowled for nine more runs. O'Brien was on for over 35 and in his second over, 37, Hamilton hit a four and was lbw next ball and showed his disgust at the decision on the way out. Bagh, a Danish umpire, was the decision maker. 63-3-16. McCallum joined Knox but the latter was out in the next over, the 38th. He snicked Johnston to third slip where White took a good overhead catch. 64-4-17. Knox faced 110 balls and had failed to score off the last 26 of them. He had not scored at all since lunch. In all he scored only off six of the balls he faced, including striking two fours.

Berrington was next and there followed a stand of exactly 50 runs, but it did take 18 overs. The sparse crowd could almost have cheered when spin appeared for the first time, McCallan coming on for over 45. The captain came in for some criticism for delaying the introduction of spin until now, but he could reasonably point out that seam had taken four wickets for 74 runs up to that point. Each batsman hit a four in McCallan's second over and Langford-Smith suffered a similar fate in the next over, McCallum pulling two fours. In Langford-Smith's next over, the 50th, McCallum gave a caught and bowled chance which was low but easy but was not taken. At this point McCallum was 21 and the score 97. In over 52 Berrington hooked a six off Langford-Smith to bring up 100.

There was spin at both ends when Thompson came on for Langford-Smith for over 54. The change worked. With the third ball of his second over Thomson's leg spin beat Berrington who was caught at the wicket. 114-5-18. Wright was next in but in seven more overs to the tea interval only 11 more runs were scored. Six of the overs were maidena, including the last three. The score at tea was 125-5, McCallum 34 in 74 balls and Wright six in 30 balls. 63 overs had now been bowled. 33 more overs were mandatory but, in fact, Ireland managed 38 in the final two hour session, with White and Thomson bowling 29 of them. These two bowlers resumed after tea. In over 67 Wright might have given a chance to short leg off White. Three overs later, in the 70th over, McCallum swept at Thomson and was bowled round his legs. 135-6-36. McCallum's innings had lasted for 94 balls and he hit five fours. Fast bowler Blain came in and it must be said he played very well and sustained the lower half of the innings. He made 93 of the remaining 179 runs scored after the fall of the sixth wicket. The start of his stand with Wright was slow. From overs 71 to 80 only six runs were scored and five of the 10 overs were maidens. Eventually, a four to Wright (his first off the 106th ball he faced) brought up 150 in over 90.

After bowling 29 overs together for 29 runs Thomson and White gave way to the new ball which had been delayed for 11 overs. The 91 over score, when the new ball was taken, was 154. 10 more overs were bowled up to the close of play, 29 runs were scored and a wicket fell. Johnston bowled five overs at one end. At the other end O'Brien bowled three, Langford-Smith one and Thomson one. Thompson's was the 101st and last over of the day. After the seventh wicket stand had put on 35 runs in 30 overs, Johnston bowled Wright in the 100th over. 170-7-36. The 36 had taken 131 balls with one four! Smith came in and took a single to face the last over of the day bowled by Thompson. In this over Smith hit Thompson for three fours, two to extra cover and one to square leg. In the previous 100 overs two fours were hit in one over twice. The close of play, after 101 overs, showed a score of 183-7 and both batsmen had scored 13, Blain off 98 balls with one four and Smith off nine balls with three fours! For only a very brief period, between the overs 52 and 62, did Scotland achieve a rate of two runs per over! Ireland had used eight bowlers. The only one missing who could bowl was Morgan.

The second day's wish and hope for Ireland was to clean up the last three Scottish wickets quickly and then make sure, at least, of the six points for first innings lead. It was not to be. The Scottish innings extended until 2:30 p.m., 49 more overs had been bowled and 131 more runs were scored. By over 116 Scotland had reached the lofty rate of two runs per over and so it stayed until the finish. Ireland then had a fright, being 59-4. N.O'Brien and Botha retrieved the situation by the close, 44 overs, when the score was 179 without further loss. The second day had sun and cloud and the breeze was not as warm. Before play began Scotland used the heavy roller.

The new ball was 10 overs old when Johnston and Langford-Smith resumed the bowling. Johnston was sure he had Blain lbw with the first ball of the day. Blain's reply was to hit a four but it was a snick to third man. Smith hit Langford-Smith for a four to third man in over 105 when 200 came up. In the first 12 overs of the day Blain hit four fours and Smith two. Botha was tried for two overs and O'Brien was given one in which Blain drove two offside fours in succession. White was given three overs from which nine runs came and McCallan was given a six over stint at the other end. In White's third over Blain went to a most valuable 50 when the score was 249. His 50 took 168 balls. Then McCallan bowled a maiden to Blain and Thompson replaced White for over 123. His second ball had Smith lbw, his third wicket of the innings. 249-8-40. Smith's 40 came off 61 balls with six fours. The eighth wicket stand was 79 in 23 overs.

Nel came in to join Blain and this pair prolonged the innings by putting on 60 runs in just two balls less than 25 overs. It took 80 minutes and straddled the lunch interval. The first 11 overs of the stand were shared by the three spinners, Thompson, McCallan and White. 250 came up in over 126. Blain hit a four in over 128 and a six off Thomson in over 129. Cusack, who had only bowled three overs to date, came on for over 134. Thomson bowled the last over before lunch to Nel who hit the second ball for six over mid-wicket. At lunch the score was 283-8 off 135 overs, Blain 71 and Nel 7.

Cusack and O'Brien were the post lunch bowlers. At 285 Nel give a chance to short mid-wicket of O'Brien when 14. Then Blain took 8 runs off O'Brien in over 141. Thompson resumed for over 142 and after two maidens, Nel took 8 more off Thompson in over 144 to bring up 300. McCallan replaced Thomson, who bowled a two overs spell, for over 146 and Blain hit his fourth ball for six to mid-wicket. O'Brien, in his sixth over after lunch, bowled a wicket maiden when the sixth ball had Nel lbw. 309-9-22. His innings lasted 69 balls with one six and one four. Blain was now 88. Could he get to 100 with the last man Lyons at the wicket. No, he could not but was not Lyons' fault as the last man out was, in fact, Blain. He pulled O'Brien to the mid-wicket boundary where Thompson had no problem with the catch. 314 all out, therefore, in 148.4 overs. Blain's 259 balls was twice as many as anyone else and he hit two sixes and 11 fours. The whole innings lasted 14 minutes short of nine hours. The scoring rate was 35 runs per 100 balls.

When, one wondered, if ever, have Ireland bowled 148.4 overs in an innings? There were three wicket takers, O'Brien 4-38 in 19.4 overs, three of the wickets being lbw, Johnston 3-49 in 27 and Thomson 3-76 in 29. Of the other five bowlers Botha, surprisingly, only bowled 8 overs for 15 runs. Cusack's seven overs cost only six runs. In fact, the five wicketless bowlers went for 136 runs in 73 overs, a rate of less than two runs per over.

Ireland started at 2:45 p.m. with 46 overs to be bowled up to the maximum finishing time of 6:30 p.m. By 6:32 p.m. only 44 overs had been bowled and Ireland were 179-4, a scoring rate of four runs per over in stark contrast to Scotland's snail's pace. Ireland used the heavy roller before Porterfield and White opened to Blain and Wright. White had opened for Ireland in his first three innings in 2000 and had done so 17 times in all, but had not done so since 2003. In 13 overs to the tea interval at 3:40 p.m. Ireland made a worrying start and were 43-3.

Porterfield started briskly and got more of the strike. He twice got fours off Blain with a pull and an extra cover drive. In the ninth over Nel, medium fast, replaced Blain. His third ball had Porterfield lbw on the front foot. Porterfield habitually plants his front foot into the line of the ball when he should place it inside the line. 31-1-18. Morgan scored one run and lasted six balls before "hanging out his bat to dry" facing Wright. The awful nibble was taken by the wicket-keeper. 32-2-1.

N O'Brien drove a four to extra cover off his first ball but Nel struck again in his second over, the 11th. White snicked a four to third man, then, next ball, drove at a ball too near him and was caught low at second slip by Wright. 40-3-11. Three wickets had fallen in 12 balls. Kevin O'Brien joined his brother, but had not scored by the tea interval which came with the total on 43-3, N O'Brien seven not out.

The 15th over, Nel, brought 14 runs with a four to Kevin O'Brien and two such to Niall O'Brien, the score rising from 45 to 59. The first ball of over 16, still being bowled by Wright, dismissed Kevin O'Brien lbw on the front foot. 59-4-7. The situation was now serious for Ireland. There were two days and a bit left to play, four wickets were down and Ireland still 255 runs behind. Botha solved the problem. He and Niall O'Brien batted out the remaining 29 overs that were bowled on day 2 in the 130 minutes up to the close of play. Both played fluently and well and did not let the precarious position inhibit them. In fact, O'Brien hit 11 fours in the stand and Botha hit seven.

In over 17 O'Brien hit Nel, in his fifth and last over, for three fours with a square cut, a pull and a square drive. Blain replaced Nel for over 19. Then Nel was, in fact, injured in over 20 attempting to catch O'Brien who hooked a long hop from Wright to wide fine leg. O'Brien was 33 and the score 85. The 12th man, Goudie, replaced Nel. At 4:50 p.m. rain delayed play for 10 minutes. O'Brien pulled Wright for four in his 11th and last over in this spell. 100 came up in Blain's third over, the 23rd, on his return. Watson, off spin, replaced Wright and Botha hit him for three successive fours in his second over, the 26th. For good value Botha added a four in overs 27 and 28. In over 29 O'Brien cover drove a four off Blain to reach 53 with the score on 131. He had faced only 55 balls with no less than 10 fours.

Lyons, slow left-arm, bowled the 31st over in place of Blain. It was a maiden to O'Brien, only the second of the innings. A very wet ball was changed in the 34th over. With a two to O'Brien in over 37, the stand was worth exactly 100 in 22 overs. O'Brien was now 69 and Botha 47. Blain and Wright came back for the last few overs of the day. In over 41 Botha went to 50 with the score on 169. He had faced only 74 deliveries with seven fours. After 44 overs, at 6:32 p.m., bad light stopped play. While the time was now past the latest time for finishing, that time could be extended to 6.40 because of the interruption for rain earlier. Ireland now were 179-4 off 44 overs. Considering the bad start, to have scored at four runs per over was quite a bonus. The deficit was still 135. O'Brien was 83, and Botha 53.

It rained most of the third day and play was never possible. The sun came out on day four and there was a breeze. However, a wet outfield and run ups precluded any play until 1:30 p.m., after an early lunch had been taken. Blain bowled the first over. O'Brien scored a single and Botha had a wide bowled at him. The second ball of the second over, bowled by Wright, O'Brien hooked at a ball too far up and too wide on the offside. The ball skied to cover and was taken. In the circumstances O'Brien should have played himself in and been more careful at this early stage. 181-5-84. O'Brien faced 109 balls and hit 14 fours but the stand, lasting 30 overs, pulled Ireland out of a hole.

Cusack came in next. It was his first ever first-class match and he celebrated that fact in an excellent way. His first scoring shot was a four off Blain. 200 came up in over 51, in which Cusack hit Blain for another four to fine leg. Then, in over 55, bowled by Blain, Wright dropped Botha, 71, low to his right at second slip. In over 57 Cusack got himself a five from a throw at the bowler's end stumps which went for four overthrows. In the first hour of play Botha had hit five fours and 60 runs had been put on. Then Lyons and Nel had a bowl. In the second over bowled by Lyons, the 63rd, Botha, with an off driven four, reached 102 with the score on 255. This was his third Irish century. It came off 144 balls with 13 fours. Watson replaced Lyons, who had only bowled three overs, for the 67th over in which the 100 partnership came up. It had taken only 22 overs. Botha's share was 64, Cusack's 34.

Blain returned in place of Nel for over 70. Botha hooked a six, luckily, between two legside fielders and a single by Cusack off the last ball brought up 300 in 423 balls. There were two landmarks in over 74. A stroke to wide mid-wicket for three by Cusack off the first ball brought him to 52, his first 50 for Ireland in his sixth innings, and put Ireland into the lead on first innings. Cusack faced 88 balls with six fours. Botha took 10 of the remainder of that over. Nel and Lyons returned to bowl. Both batsmen hit fours off Lyons in over 79. Botha's four, an off drive, took him to exactly 150 from 189 balls and it was his 18th four. It was the 11th individual score of over 150 for Ireland and now two players had made two such each, Botha having joined Morgan in doing so. The next over, the 80th, was the last before tea, which was taken at 4 p.m. The score was 349-5, Botha 152, Cusack 60. In 36 overs so far on this fourth day 170 runs were put on.

Three overs were bowled after tea, both batsmen hitting a four, and then the new ball was taken for over 84. Nel took it but Lyons, surprisingly, shared it. With a single off Lyons in over 85 Botha surpassed his previous highest Irish score, which was 157 against United Arab Emirates at Abu Dhabi early in 2007 in an Intercontinental Cup match. A two to Botha in over 90 took this sixth wicket partnership to 202, one more than the previous record for this wicket, 201 by AD Comyn and WD Hamilton in 1896 against I Zingari at Phoenix. That record had stood for 111 years.

Lyons kept bowling, in fact to the end of the innings. Watson replaced Nel for over 94. It transpired that Blain was injured and could not bowl. In over 95, bowled by Lyons, Cusack went down the pitch and hit a straight aerial four to bring up exactly 400. Next over, bowled by Watson, Botha, on 182, was dropped at short mid-wicket. At the end of this over Botha was 184 and must have been eyeing a score of 200 and perhaps breaking Morgan's record of 209. He inched nearer that figure with a two in over 97, bowled by Lyons. Two balls later he skipped down the pitch, missed, and was then unlucky to be stumped at the second attempt. 415-6-186. Botha faced 238 balls, with one six and 22 fours. His innings lasted five hours and 22 minutes and was the fourth highest ever for Ireland. The sixth wicket stand with Cusack was 234 runs in all from 309 balls. Botha got 133 runs in the stand to Cusack's 92. Apart from being a record for the sixth wicket, it was the second highest for any wicket.

Thomson came in at number eight with a reputation for much improved batting. He showed that this was so and was not out at the end. After 55 overs in this day's play it was agreed to start the last hour. These 55 overs were bowled by 5:20 p.m. The last hour would consist of 15 overs. In fact, only 11 were bowled. Play stopped at 5:56 p.m. to allow Scotland plenty of time to catch an 8 p.m. flight.

The big landmark in these 11 overs was in over 101, bowled by Lyons. Cusack hit a six over long-on to go from 95 to 101 on his first-class debut. Cusack faced 170 balls and this six to reach his century was his first of the innings. There were 12 fours. For Ireland, JR Gill, in 1948, hit a century in his only first-class match while AR White, in 2004, hit 152 not out on his debut in first-class cricket, also for Ireland. Cusack hit fours in three of the next four overs and 450 came up in over 105. Berrington, medium pace, had his first bowl in over 106. Cusack hit the fourth ball for six to long-off. In his next over Berrington had his revenge. Cusack cut the first ball for four but he was caught at the wicket off the sixth ball. 467-7-130. Cusack faced 204 balls with two sixes and 16 fours.

Thomson and McCallan played out the last two overs adding six runs for a final total of 473-7. This was the highest score ever made by Ireland at home and the second highest anywhere. The best was 531 for five declared against United Arab Emirates at Abu Dhabi earlier in 2007.

Ireland faced 39 less overs than did Scotland in this current match. Ireland scored 159 more runs at a rate of 71 runs per 100 balls. Scotland bowled seven maidens to Ireland's 60. Wright was probably Scotland's best bowler. He took 3-93 in 27 overs. The first innings points, six, went to Ireland and, because more than eight hours play was lost to rain, each side got three more points for what was considered a rain ruined draw. The Man-of-the-Match was AC Botha.

Photographs
Stormont, Belfast