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Ger Siggins

It took a gutsy innings by Gary Wilson to finish off the Italian job. With Ireland hanging off the cliff of elimination by their fingertips, the Surrey batsman kept his head to see his team home with two balls to spare.

Wilson made an unbeaten 31 as Ireland struggled to suppress a competitive Italy side at the Sheikh Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Gary Wilson admitted it had been a "smash and grab" win for Ireland -- "all we can take from the game are the two points - and run" he quipped.

"Two or three guys got starts and didn't go on so we wouldn't have been in that position if one of them did."

William Porterfield was even more critical of his batsmen: "we made it hard for ourselves in the middle order with a couple of soft dismissals," he said.

The continentals have signed up several players with first-class experience and Italian heritage, including former Australian ODI player Michael Di Venuto, and came into yesterday's game with two wins out of two.

The left arm spin of demon bowler Damien Crowley was almost Ireland's undoing as the Notts 2nd XI player took 3-12 off four magical overs.

Italy won the toss and batted on a slow surface, struggling to get on top of disciplined bowling. Ireland kept the boundary count down once again, conceding just three fours and a pair of late sixes clouted by captain Bonaro.

Off-spinner Paul Stirling opened the bowling, and delivered with two tight overs costing just one run. He picked up the scalp of Andy Northcote, a former pro with Pembroke in Dublin. Di Venuto top scored with 23 off 44 balls as wickets tumbled around him.

After five overs Italy had made just 16, but Middlesex all-rounder Gareth Berg stuck around for 19 before he played an awful shot to square leg to give his club mate Paul Stirling his second wicket.

Berg and Di Venuto took the score to 55, but the Italians lost five wickets for 22 runs as first the spinners cashed in and then Boyd Rankin returned. The 6'8" paceman set a new T20 career best on Wednessday, and improved on that with two lethal deliveries to send Damien Crowley and Hayden Patrizi back to the pavilion. Big Boyd is now concentrating on bowling at the stumps and was rewarded with seeing the poles cartwheel twice in a fiery second spell.

Max Sorensen, who came in for Andrew White, was entrusted with the 18th and 20th overs, and picked up Carl Sandri to a catch in the deep. Captain Bonano took the total into three figures when he just cleared the fielder on the square leg rope.

If it ain't broke don't fix it they say, but Ireland still separated the pairing of Stirling and William Porterfield that saw them to a ten wicket win over Kenya. Kevin O'Brien was promoted and cut the first ball to the third man boundary but perished to the first ball of Carl Sandri. The Melbourne-born off spinner has been in fine form in the tournament and picked up two more scalps to take his total to eight.

Porterfield and Stirling put on 25 before the Middlesex man edged behind to Hayden Patrizi. Ireland then made heavy weather of getting the runs as the middle order departed in a flurry.

The left-arm spin of Crowley caused all sorts of problems as Ireland almost became unstuck. A fantastic piece of fielding by Berg saw John Mooney go to a direct hit and Ireland were confronted with the serious possibility of an early departure from a tournament they were expected to win.

As the tension mounted the cool head of wicket keeper Gary Wilson was required and he took the singles before taking on Northcote in the final over. With eight wickets down Ireland still needed seven off five balls, but a four, two, four finish left him unbeaten on 30 and Ireland join Italy on two wins out of three.

Wilson was complimentary about an Italian side yet to claim a senior scalp. "Italy have definitely got the beating of some good sides and we'll be hoping that they'll do us a favour against Namibia."

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