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Match Report
Ian Callender

Day 1

It takes a brave man to say that a Mannofield pitch will take spin before a ball is bowled but Ireland coach Phil Simmons got it right in going into their Intercontinental Cup clash against Scotland with three spinners. However, he was let down by his players as the three-times champions and holders conceded a dominant position at lunch to be under the cosh by the close. Ireland, despite going into the game with arguably their strongest ever batting line-up - Regan West was No 11 - lost their last eight wickets for 62, five of them to off spinner Majid Haq and then watched, almost helplessly, as Scotland reduced the deficit by 76.

Regan West took a wicket in his first over but it was his only success and Ireland's most experienced player, Kyle McCallan, suffered the indignity of being hit for a four and a six off successive balls by Ryan Watson as Ireland's target of taking five wickets by the close was seriously undermined.

The highlight of the day was the batting of the captain, William Porterfield. The Gloucestershire opener may have lost his place in the county's four-day line-up, hence his presence in Aberdeen, but for three hours, the Scottish bowlers were cannon-fodder as he unleashed his range of strokes none better than the six and nine fours. He lost opening partner Jeremy Bray at the start of the 13th over but Paul Stirling was quickly into his stride and had six boundaries in his 32 before a careless pull, straight to long-leg off medium pacer Richie Berrington brought his downfall.

It was the beginning of the end for Ireland, although to be fair, they were not helped by some dubious umpiring decisions by Scottish official Ian Ramage, who started the collapse by giving Alex Cusack out leg before, after a big inside edge, and other lbw decisions followed against Andre Botha, well forward despite not playing a shot, Andrew White, who can have few complaints and Kyle McCallan, who had. He was hit on the thigh pad! The umpires even took the teams off for tea at the fall of the ninth wicket, against the Laws of Cricket, summing up a bad day at the office.

But if you don't get hit on the pad you can't be given out and there was scarcely an appeal worthy of the name in the morning session as Porterfield, in particular, did as he liked. Bray was caught and Stirling, crucially, followed just three overs before lunch. After Haq's first two lbw decisions, Porterfield finally fell immediately after the mid-afternoon drinks session, caught low by Berrington at backward point. It was the first of three catches for Scotland's best fielder, with the pick of them the dive to his right to dismiss Gary Wilson. Trent Johnston was the last to fall, caught at mid-on, 10 minutes after the early tea.

With Andrew Britton left out, Alex Cusack shared the new ball with Johnston and both finished their spells with almost identical figures, Johnston, who found more edges, rewarded with the wicket of Fraser Watts, the ball after Lockhart got off the mark from his 22nd attempt - one fewer than Cusack took in the Ireland innings.

The last 40 overs of the day belonged to the Scots and with Neil McCallum and Berrington to follow if and when Qasim Sheikh and Ryan Watson are dismissed, Ireland have still much to do if they are to gain the first innings points, never mind the victory.

Day 2

Having surrendered a first innings lead - the six points more important than the half dozen runs - William Porterfield led the Ireland recovery with his second 50 of the match to keep the Intercontinental Cup holders on course for their first win. The captain is only playing against Scotland in Aberdeen because Gloucestershire felt they could do without him in their championship game today but the county's loss is Ireland's significant gain. After scoring more than twice as many runs as any of his team-mates in the first innings, he was 52 not out at the close of the second day, having already lost three partners in the second innings. Ireland's advantage is 96 and if they can double that today they should have enough runs to make sure of the 14 points for the win.

They may have to do it without Alex Cusack who, after bowling 12 overs, left the field with a back spasm and is due to have a scan to see if he can continue in the match. He should not be required because the bulk of the bowling will be done by the spinners who took nine of the wickets, Regan West finishing with career best figures of seven for 88 and Kyle McCallan, who bowled with much more consistency but had to be satisfied with two wickets for 54 in 22 overs.

He was bowling at umpire Ian Ramage's end, the Scottish official who gave three leg before decisions on day one did not give any on Day 2 and Ireland had to hit the stumps five times. When Scotland were 170 for four, the points for the first innings lead appeared a formality but Ireland took the next five wickets for 29 runs to leave the home side relying on No 11 Ally Evans to stay with Qasim Sheikh. He not only got off the mark from his fifth ball but left Sheikh on strike to face West and the Scottish batsman, who had survived two confident lbw shouts, brought up his first century for his country off 215 balls with 10 fours. Evans was out next ball.

Resuming on 76 for two, the Scots won the first session of the day, adding 73 runs for the loss of just Ryan Watson (29) and Neil McCallum (I4). Both batsmen will be disappointed by their dismissals with the former captain failing to get to the pitch of the ball and losing his off stump and McCallum mistiming one to mid-off. With Sheikh the immovable object, Ireland had to rely on taking wickets at the other end and in the hour after lunch they did just that. Three times in a row West and McCallan breached the defences and when skipper Gordon Drummond was caught at the wicket to give West his sixth wicket and best figures for Ireland, the Scots still needed five runs for the first inning points.

McCallan kept the pressure on when he had Gordon Goudie caught at silly point but Evans edged one through the slips and Goudie then pulled a short ball to the mid-wicket boundary to win the first points of the match. Porterfield and Jeremy Bray were largely untroubled in compiling their second half century stand of the match but Bray, despite being set again, was beaten by Majid Haq and the edge carried low to Ryan Watson at slip. Three balls later it was 63 for two as Paul Stirling was comprehensively bowled by the off spinner and Andre Botha was still in single figures when he was bowled in Watson's first over. Kevin O'Brien stayed with Porterfield to see the captain to his first second innings 50 for Ireland five overs before the close.

Day 3

ON the day Andre Botha made a welcome return to the bowling crease, Ireland took a stranglehold on their Intercontinental Cup clash against Scotland in Aberdeen. Only rain should prevent a first win in the competition for the holders who need five wickets on the final day; the Scots are still 225 runs behind. After two days of under-performing, this was the almost perfect day for Ireland. Resuming on 102 for three, they were bowled out on the stroke of tea for 303 with captain William Porterfield completing a record-equalling seventh century for his country.

The out-of favour Gloucestershire professional scored 118 from 304 balls of monumental concentration, hitting 15 boundaries, including a huge six over mid-wicket. He received excellent support from Andrew White who made 55 and shared a fifth wicket stand of 115 in more than 47 overs of hard work. However, it allowed Ireland's remaining batsman to enjoy themselves and they added another 85 runs in barely 17 overs to effectively ensure only one team could win.

Gary Wilson was the least impressive of the last five batsmen - he was missed twice before holing out to a fine low catch at cover by Scotland captain Gordon Drummond - but Trent Johnston was impressive in a short but sweet 10 off eight balls, Regan West hit three flowing boundaries in his 19 and Kyle McCallan was last man out for an effective 18.

The day got even better when Alex Cusack strode to the middle at No 11, having been given the all-clear after his back spasm on Tuesday and although he did not bowl last night as a precaution, his absence from the attack was more than compensated by Botha. After Johnston and Kevin O'Brien had shared a hostile and accurate first 10 overs, Botha came on for his first bowl for Ireland since the I-Cup final in Port Elizabeth last November. Wouldn't you know it, he took a wicket with his second ball, Dougie Lockhart trapped on the back foot and then had Scotland's first innings centurion, Qasim Sheikh, caught behind for 17. After figures of two for 16 from six overs, it was as if Ireland had a new player.

Regan West needed only 10 balls to add to his seven wickets from the first innings, finally getting a decision from Scottish official Ian Ramage, two balls after a caught behind appeal was turned down and the delivery after Paul Stirling dropped Ewen Chalmers at short leg. Ramage then, much to Ryan Watson's amazement, adjudged the former Scotland captain run out to a direct hit by Porterfield and another significant stumbling block to Ireland's victorious progress was removed. Neil McCallum and Richie Berrington survived to the close but they will need to bat until at least lunch today and then the rest of the team must keep batting if they are to get up to shock the much more experienced Ireland side in this one.

Earlier, Majid Haq was rewarded for persistence and accuracy in a marathon 41 overs spell with four wickets to add to his five in the first inning and Gordon Goudie had his second four-for despite the pitch, if anything getting less responsive for the pace bowlers. Ally Evans thought he had missed the chance of a first wicket when Wilson was dropped by McCallum in the gully but he deservedly got his man in the next over.

Day 4

Unfortunatley heavy overnight and early morning showers prevented any chance of an early start. The players took an early lunch but during a later inspection there was a torrential downpour. The match was abandoned soon afterwards at 245pm. Scotland take 9 points from the game including 6 points for the first innings lead and Ireland have to be content with 3 points.

Unfortunately for Ireland, the weather forecasters, finally, got it right and the rain arrived in Aberdeen to end any hopes of the Intercontinental Cup holders getting on the field on the last day of their game against Scotland. One session, two hours, is probably all they would have needed to take the last five Scottish wickets and claim the 14 points and $3,000 for an outright win but after light rain for most of the morning, a cloudburst at 2pm left lakes on the outfield and the umpires immediately abandoned the game.

It leaves Ireland with just 12 points, out of a possible 40, and just four games to make up the deficit which is already 17 on the Scots who are the early leaders in the seven-team table.

William Porterfield, a frustrated but philosophical Ireland captain, said: There's not much you can do when the weather goes against you. We needed two wickets against Kenya (in the first match at Eglinton last month) and we lost the first session of the last day and now we've lost the last day here in Aberdeen so it just means we have to keep performing the way we have been in this competition for the last four years, take it into whatever game comes next and look to get maximum points to get us back on track." Porterfield also admitted that he would have been happy to total 250 on the opening day but despite a good comeback with the ball, they just didn't have enough runs to get the first innings points.

"It was never an easy wicket to get in on. You had to graft and we knew every run was vital," said Porterfield. "On the first morning the Scots would probably admit they didn't bowl well and we knew we were ahead of the game after the first session. They bowled better after lunch and we didn't bat as well as we could have. To drag them back from 130 for three and bowl them out for near enough the par score was a good effort."