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Match Report
Emmet Riordan, Ian Callender

Day 1 Report by Emmet Riordan for Irish Times

Ireland removed their winter shackles to take control on day one of the Intercontinental Cup clash against United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Phil Simmons's side finished the day on 46 for one in reply to UAE's first innings of 228 as Ireland's bowling attack hit their straps from the off.

Simmons handed 17-year-old Paul Stirling a debut, but the Cliftonville opening bat was given time to get used to his new surroundings after the home side won the toss and batted. In the absence of Boyd Rankin, skipper Trent Johnston took the new ball alongside David Langford-Smith, who struck the first blow with the fourth ball of the match when he trapped Gayan Silva in front of the wicket for four. Johnston removed Amjad Ali for 12 and wickets continued to fall as the UAE were left reeling on 121 for six.

Only a 97-run partnership between Sameer Zia and Ahmed Raza for the seventh wicket saved them from total disaster as they went past the 200 mark. In a bid to make the breakthrough, Johnston reintroduced Alex Cusack into the attack. It reaped immediate rewards as three wickets fell with the score on 218. The Clontarf all-rounder clean-bowled Zia for 56 and Shoaib Sarwar for a duck, before Stirling provided an early highlight when he ran out Zahid Shah with a direct hit from backward short leg. 10 runs were added before an exceptional catch from William Porterfield off the bowling of Andre Botha removed Raza for 46 to close the innings on 228.

Stirling proved Ireland's only casualty, the young opener making 2 before being bowled by Fahad Alhashmi. Eoin Morgan came in to join Porterfield and the left-handed pair pushed the score along to 46 for one before stumps. Johnston was delighted with his side after their winter break. "It was good that we hit the ground running today after being without a game for over six months. I'd obviously like for us to bat most of tomorrow and a bit of Saturday. I don't think we need 600, but I would like to get somewhere around the 500 mark".

Day 2 Report by Emmet Riordan for the Irish Times

Niall O'Brien and Trent Johnston showed yesterday that records, however old, are there to be broken as they helped Ireland assume complete control on the second day of their Intercontinental Cup tie against United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi.

Coming together on 203-6, and still 25 runs behind the UAE, the pair put on 163 for the seventh wicket in just 35 overs as Ireland finished the day at 366 for seven, to forge 138 runs ahead and claim the six bonus points on offer for leading after the first innings. The record books were dusted off to reveal their heroics had eclipsed the seven-wicket stand of 150 set by William Home and WS Ashton 140 years ago against London side I Zingari at the Phoenix Park.

Northants wicket-keeper O'Brien finished the day unbeaten on 137 off 237 balls, the second time he has passed three figures against the UAE, while Johnston fell to the last ball of the day after an enterprising 69 from 95 deliveries. "It was a truly exceptional partnership, not just the amount of runs but the way the runs came, full of good attacking shots. That has put us very much in the driving seat" remarked Ireland coach Phil Simmons.

O'Brien was keen to credit his captain after he claimed his fourth international century and third in this competition. "It's nice to bat with someone who scores so freely it took the pressure to score off me a lot" said O'Brien, who brought up his century with his 14th boundary off 195 deliveries. This morning the 26-year-old from Sandymount will have his eye on his personal best of 176, set against the same opposition three years ago in Namibia.

Day 3 Report by Ian Callender of the Mail on Sunday

Saqib Ali, the United Arab Emirates captain, held up Ireland's victory charge last night, forcing them to return this morning to complete what should be the formality of another innings victory in their Intercontinental Cup clash in Abu Dhabi. Ireland needed only two more wickets at the end of the third day but the umpires denied them the extra half-hour to which they were entitled because they didn't know the Laws of Cricket.

When Trent Johnston asked for the extra time, to save everyone coming back this morning, he was told that both captains had to agree. Wrong. Although Saqib was on 98 not out, he wanted to return tomorrow and only some time after the close of play did the umpires admit to the Ireland captain that they had made an error. Fortunately, it will not be a decisive mistake because there is no danger of rain in this part of the world at the moment and Ireland will today pick up the 20 points which will move the holders into second place behind Kenya in the Intercontinental Cup table, and with a match in hand.

It was an almost perfect day for Ireland as the last three wickets added 108 to their overnight total before they were bowled out for 474, a lead of 246. At the close, UAE were 186 for seven, in effect eight, because Nigel Fernandez is unlikely to bat because of a hand injury, sustained when he dropped Niall O'Brien at deep point. At that stage O'Brien was on 154, just 22 short of his best Ireland score, but he could not take full advantage and was caught behind off an audacious reverse sweep for 174. Still it was Ireland's fifth highest individual score and, with the help of an unbeaten 52 from Kyle McCallan, Ireland had the lead they wanted.

McCallan, brought on as first change, then made a double breakthrough to reduce UAE to 64 for three and, with Clontarf's "golden arm", Alex Cusack, also taking two wickets for the second time in the match inside seven overs, Ireland were on their way to their second convincing win in this stadium in just over a year.

Johnston summed it up as a "pleasing day", adding, "to take seven wickets on that pitch was a good effort. We came here to take 20 points and whether we take 30 minutes or three hours tomorrow, it doesn't matter as long as we get them."

Day 4 Report by Ian Callender of the Daily Mail

Trent Johnston is a major worry for the rest of Ireland's tour of UAE and Bangladesh with an elbow strain. The Ireland captain took no part in the final day Intercontinental Cup victory against the United Arab Emirates in the Sheik Zayed Stadium and will not bowl in the one-day games against an Abu Dhabi XI on Wednesday and Essex two days later.

Speaking while watching Ireland toil in the field, ahead of their nine-wicket success just two overs before the start of the last hour, Johnston said "I saw a specialist last night because my elbow and upper (bowling) arm was so swollen. The last three balls I bowled yesterday were the most painful I've bowled in 20 years. I've been given strong anti-inflammatory tablets and told to rest. It is not affecting my batting so I may play as a batsman on Wednesday and then let Porty (William Porterfield) loose against Essex on Friday.

Porterfield, the new Ireland vice-captain, had proudly led the team on to the field at the start of the day hoping, if not expecting, to wrap things up within an hour. After all, they had taken seven wickets in the first 48 overs to reduce the UAE, trailing by 246 after the first innings, to 127 for seven, but then the obdurate Zahid Shah joined his captain, Saqib Ali, in the middle. The last 12 overs on Saturday brought no reward but, no matter, a refreshed attack would surely finish them off quickly on the final-day pitch. Not exactly. The two-hour morning session passed with a near run-out the closest that Ireland came to taking a wicket. The new ball did not bring any reward either, with the captain off the field and David Langford-Smith carrying an ankle injury which restricted him to five overs. "We were fully expecting to wrap up the game in the first session, but it proved to be a bit tougher. Their captain batted really well and they got stuck in", said Porterfield. "Last year the pitch was up and down here on the last day so I went with the seamers at one end and Kyle (McCallan) at the other, so that was the reason for giving Greg (Thomson) only one over before lunch.".

It was to be another hour before leg-spinner Thomson was recalled, but he then made the breakthrough, beating Zahid on the forward defensive in the 42nd over of the day. Zahid had faced 127 balls yesterday and scored from three of them, two fours and a huge six off McCallan. The Lisburn bowler did it again with his next ball, beating Fahad Alhashmi all ends up. Meanwhile Saqib Ali had turned down singles and orchestrated the strike superbly, but the UAE captain then surrendered his wicket, five runs short of his double century. He had batted for 7 hours and kept Ireland out for 357 balls when Alex Cusack tempted him forward, he got the edge and Eoin Morgan held the catch at slip. It was Cusack's fifth wicket in the match at a cost of 32 runs from 23 overs and, having scored 130 against the Scots at Stormont last year, he is another genuine Ireland all-rounder.

Debutant Paul Stirling started the Ireland reply with a glorious cover drive but just couldn't see the team to the finish line, a bottom edge accounting for him when he had scored 10. Porterfield, however, with an unbeaten 40, eased Ireland to victory and afterwards he was delighted, even though it had taken longer than expected. "We always said that one wicket would bring two, though we didn't think it would be two in two balls, but we stuck at it and worked hard. It was never going to be easy on such a flat wicket but it didn't matter how long we took, as long as the three wickets came."

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