Ireland took another giant leap towards playing in their third successive ICC Cricket World Cup with a 59 runs success over Afghanistan at Clontarf, the team accepted as their most difficult opponents.
Indeed when Afghanistan reduced their hosts to 106 for eight after 31 overs, it was Ireland who were staring defeat in the face. But, yet again, the No 1 Associate team showed why they remain the team they all have to beat.
Ed Joyce, first in partnership with Tim Murtagh and then George Dockrell, put on 57 for the last two wickets and when Trent Johnston and a golden spell from Alex Cusack left Afghanistan reeling at 33 for five, it was only a matter of time.
In the end, Ireland romped home with almost 17 overs to spare and they can now look forward to doing it all over next week against the same opposition in the Intercontinental Cup. Ireland also lead that competition.
Joyce was surprised by the margin of victory.
"It wasn't an easy wicket to bat on. When I went in we thought 200-220 would have been needed but when I ran out Kevin (O'Brien), the only batsman who looked comfortable on that pitch, I revised that down and from 80 for five we were grateful for any total.
" We always knew we were in the game with 160 but certainly didn't expect a 59 runs victory," said the Sussex batsman.
"Trent bowled beautifully, albeit it was a helpful wicket, but he didn't bowl a bad ball and Cusi then came on and did exactly the same thing.
"It was very difficult pitch to drive on so I had to rein myself in from playing that shot. I was dropped on 20 and that was crucial in the end. I have played a lot of cricket with Tim (when he was Murtagh's team-mate at Middlesex). I think he was nervous, but those runs at the end were vital."
This was Ireland's 10th lowest total in 73 one-day internationals, and their lowest against a fellow-Associate, but 163 was worth a lot more on a sluggish pitch still recovering from the rain which washed out the first game between the teams, without a ball bowled. Indeed so bad were the run-ups on the original pitch that this game was moved to an adjacent one to ensure the start was delayed by only 45 minutes.
It was a big toss to win and the last thing out-of-form captain William Porterfield wanted was to bat first in helpful bowling conditions. But, after opposite number Karim Sadiq called correctly, the Ireland captain didn't shy away from his responsibilities and walked to the middle with
Paul Stirling, After two first ball dismissals in his last two innings for Ireland, at least Porterfield got off the mark this time, to his 16th ball, but nine balls later he was walking in the opposite direction, caught at long-leg for his eighth successive single figure score for county and country.
If Warwickshire do not require him next week, there remains the possibility that he will be available for the Rathmines clash. At the moment only Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien of the county professionals are down to play in the game.
Stirling had been dismissed in Shapoor's previous over and when Kevin O'Brien was run out, ball-watching, to a fair call by Joyce, after the most entertaining innings of the day - 31 off 32 balls with six fours and a six - Ireland had to go into rearguard mode.
Joyce, without an innings for Sussex since June 10, was the perfect batsman to play that role and 67 from 124 boundaries with six fours was just what was required. Murtagh, finally making an appearance in the middle for Ireland at the third attempt, got off the mark with a boundary and he and Dockrell stayed a vital 17 overs with Joyce.
Murtagh is still waiting for his first wicket, despite getting three spells, and it was the spinners, Stirling and Dockrell, who finished the job with two wickets apiece for a miserly 14 runs.
And Joyce confirmed, Ireland are in a good position to reach Australia in 2015.
"We would like to have played the first game but we've got three points from four against a very, very strong side, so we would have taken that," added Joyce. There are three rounds of matches remaining, the next for Ireland in the UAE next February/March.
- Coach Kabir Khan inspects the new pitch
- The toss
- William Porterfield, David Jukes and Karim Sadiq at the toss
- Dollat Zadran appeals for a caught behind against William Porterfield
- He's disappointed when the appeal is turned down
- A diving stop to save the boundary
- Shapoor Zadran bowls to Porterfield
- Shapoor Zadran produced considerable pace in his opening overs
- Porterfield prepares to hot a free delivery ...
- Ö and is bowled by the slower ball
- Dollat Zadran appeals once more
- Porterfield drives through wide mid on to the boundary
- Paul Stirling gets and edge to a delivery from Shapoor Zadran
- Stirling watches it go through to be caught by wicketkeeper Mohammed Shahzad
- Shapoor runs down the wicket to celebrate Stirling's dismissal
- Shapoor produces his own unique celebration!
- The Afghan players surround Shapoor
- Porterfield skies the ball int he direction of deep fine leg ...
- ... and Shapoor is exultant as Dollat Zadran holds on to the skier
- Ed Joyce prepares to face
- Niall O'Brien joined him at the fall of the second wicket
- Niall O'Brien is bowled by Gulbadin Naib
- The bowler enjoys his moment of triumph
- A section of the stand at Clontarf
- Running repairs for wicketkeeper Shahzad
- A despondent Gary Wilson has just edged Shapoor to wicketkeeper Shahzad
- The Afghan players celebrate Shapoor's third wicket
- Ed Joyce drives down the ground
- This shot from Joyce evades the bowler's dive
- Joyce plays uppishly but safely
- Kevin O'Brien lets this one go
- Driven powerfully by O'Brien
- A watchful leave by Joyce
- Mohammad Nabi to Joyce
- Ed Joyce faces Nabi
- Driven by Kevin O'Brien
- O'Brien hits one back hard at Gulbadian
- And the bowler is disappointed at the drop
- Some muscle stretching is called for
- A direct hit as Kevin O'Brien goes for a single
- And he is well out of his ground
- MohammadNabi bowling
- Ed Joyce
- Pulled away by Joyce for four
- Another powerful shot through the leg side
- Trent Johnston
- Delighted to have removed Johnston
- Watchful defence from Tim Murtagh
- Murtagh cuts
- Driven through the covers by Joyce
- Another stylish drive
- Tim Murtagh
- Let's keep going!
- Karim Sadiq bowls to Joyce
- More action from Sadiq
- What happened there?
- Murtagh pulls to mid on
- Repairs to Shapoor's hand after he drops a catch
- Swept away by Joyce
- George Dockrell batting at number 11
- The Irish squad look on
- One of the young spectators
- Throwing in from the deep
- Ed Joyce drives down the ground
- The players leave the field after Dockrell's dismissal
- Trent Johnston bowling from the City End
- Karim Sadiq has a wild swing ...
- ... and his stumps are shattered ...
- .. after which he has a rueful look back ...
- ... andJohnston lets him know how pleased he is
- Tim Murtagh opened from the Killester End
- Seam up from Murtagh
- More of Murtagh
- Jawed Ahmadi plays and misses
- Murtagh again to Ahmadi
- Johnston celebrates the dismissal of Mohammed Shezhad
- The rest of the Irish team do likewise
- That's two of the top Afghanistan order gone!
- Javid Ahmadi plays back to Cusack and is bowled
- Ahmadi departs
- Najib Ullah prods at this one from Johnston
- Johnston to Mohammad Nabi
- Cusack and Gary Wilson appeal against Ullah
- Cusack traps Mohammaed Nabi in front
- Gary Wilson comes up to congratulate Cusack
- The rest of the Irish team congratulates Cusack
- Worked away on the off side
- Tim Murtagh from the other end
- Murtagh about to release
- The VIP balcony
- Samiullah Shenwari plays and missses
- Gary Wilson takes the throw from third man
- Paul Stirling bowling
- Gary Wilson takes the return
- Enjoying the game
- Gulbodin Naib
- Runs for Naib
- Afghan fans at the game
- Stopped by the boot of John Mooney
- Return comes into William Porterfield
- George Dockrell bowling
- George Dockrell and Richard Smith both agree that it's out
- Samiullah Shenwari is run out
- Trent Johnston congratulated
- George Dockrell and William Porterfield
- Off the ground to defend
- Attacking field for George Dockrell
- Wild swing for Dollat Zadran
- Tim Murtagh
- Dollat is bowled to finish the game
- Ireland win by 59 runs