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Match Report
Ian Callender

It was embarrassingly one-sided and Ireland's hopes of convincing the ICC Board that there should be a qualifying competition ahead of the next World Cup finals took a further blow. Bowled out in just 20 overs for 96, Ireland took three wickets in reply as Pakistan hurried to a 1-0 lead in the short one-day series in Belfast.

Even without the most in-form batsman, Niall O'Brien and slow left armer George Dockrell who joined newly Irish qualified Hamish Marshall on the injury list, Ireland were confident of causing an upset win against Pakistan. After all, Ireland had done it before, as recently as March 2, with that famous win over England at the World Cup in India and their visitors were just off the plane from 35 degrees heat in the Caribbean.

Some 20 degrees lower with an unpleasant blustery wind to cope with, it should have been an even contest. There are only four places between the teams in the world rankings. But, from the moment Misbah-ul-Haq, the new one-day captain, replacing Shahid Afridi, won the toss, all the momentum was with Pakistan.

The first surprise in the Ireland team was the promotion of Ed Joyce to open the batting in place of Porterfield. It was at his request that he opened and broke up the partnership of Stirling and the captain which, in the last ODI, had scored the little matter of 177 runs, against the Netherlands in Kolkata. It didn't really matter because eight balls into the innings, Joyce was walking past Porterfield, back to the pavilion after edged Tanvir Ahmed through to the wicket-keeper.

The wicket led to Ireland's best (only) period of dominance in the day and that was entirely due to Stirling. The Middlesex opener hit seven fours and a six in a whirlwind 39 off 22 balls but when the extra pace of Junaid Khan was introduced he failed to survive his first over. Still going for his shots, he mistimed one which flew into the covers and the catch was taken with embarrassing ease. This would have been just the situation for Niall O'Brien but, in his absence, Ireland sent in Alex Cusack, who batted at No 7 throughout the World Cup and after stroking his first ball through extra cover, he quickly became Junaid's second victim.

The 21 year old, playing only fifth ODI, took full advantage of the conditions and his seam and swing proved virtually unplayable. Kevin O'Brien is usually a man for a crisis but this time he had only time to thump one down the ground in his trademark manner before Junaid ripped through his defences. Andrew White edged behind next ball and John Mooney had to avoid a hat-trick before the rain which had delayed the start by three and a quarter hours returned. A further two overs were lost but it didn't any difference to Ireland who lasted only seven more overs after the resumption as Saeed Ajmal, the man of the recent series in the Caribbean (with 17 wickets in the two Tests) took the last three wickets, with Gary Wilson having no answer to his doosra.

A first wicket stand of 73 effectively finished the match as a contest but Ireland, to their credit stuck to the task and Cusack was rewarded with three wickets, the first his 100th for his adopted country. He had Taufeeq Umar smartly caught low down by Stirling at slip, Mohammad Hafeez brought up his 50 from 83 balls with eight fours and a six but was bowled next ball and Asad Shafiq, one of the four changes from the last ODI line-up in Guyana three weeks ago, could not see the job through either, caught behind for four.

Fittingly it was was Misbah who hit the winning runs and brought up the biggest cheer of the day from a cold but happy contingent of Pakistan supporters.

Stormont, Belfast