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Match Report
Ian Callender

It was never pretty, but for Ireland yesterday's low-scoring five wickets victory against Scotland has put them in pole position to retain their World Cricket League title. It took the Scots 47 overs to score 117 and Ireland another 35 to knock off the runs on a Voorborg pitch where the batsmen were always going to come off second best.

The unpredictable bounce made stroke selection a lottery and although Neil McCallum was struck on the helmet by an Alex Cusack delivery, fortunately he was able to continue and no-one was seriously injured. McCallum was one of only five batsmen in the match to reach double figures - he was caught and bowled by John Mooney just one run short of a deserved half-century - but in Kevin O'Brien Ireland had their own act of defiance.

O'Brien forsook his natural game to bat for more than two hours in making 41, from 84 balls but his boundary count of six was only two less than the whole of the Scotland innings. Coming to the middle on a hat-trick after debutant Andrew Balbirnie and Cusack were dismissed in successive balls, he led the fightback and finished the job, sharing an unbroken stand of 55 with John Mooney who lived up to his captain's label of being the best No 7 in Associate cricket. Balbirnie was thrown in at the deep end after James Hall pulled out just before the toss, a bruised finger sustained in the warm-up ruling him out.

Cusack was comprehensively bowled next ball by one that kept slightly low - but by no means the lowest of the day - and the other two to miss out were Saturday's hero Andrew Poynter and Andrew White, who played one tentative shot too many and was caught at short mid-wicket after scoring two from 21 balls. It could safely be said it wasn't a day for fast scoring but Paul Stirling tried to disprove the theory with a typical bright and breezy 37 from just 43 with seven boundaries, three of them memorably on the up through the covers, comfortably the shots of the day.

The pitch did not change in the second half of the day, the Ireland bowlers just bowled better. It is becoming repetitive but Trent Johnston and Kevin O'Brien rendered the openers almost strokeless and when Alex Cusack comes on he tightens the noose even more. Yesterday, Ireland could add in Nigel Jones and John Mooney and it was a quintet which, on that pitch, would have troubled better batting line-ups than their inexperienced opponents, Jones in particular revelling in the conditions, bowling his 10 overs straight through as first change for less than 20 runs.

The Scots didn't help their cause with three run-outs but apart from McCallum and the reliable Dougie Lockhart they didn't have the stomach for the fight. George Dockrell bowled two overs but Johnston admitted later that that was a mistake. This was not the day for a spinner.

Still Ireland are glad they do not have to return here, the last two games to be played at the VRA ground in Amsterdam and two more victories against Canada and the Netherlands will ensure they will stay there for Saturday's final. It really is a case now of who is going to stop them?

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