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Day 1

A thoroughly professional first day batting display from Ireland left them in control of their InterContinental Cup clash with the UAE in Sharjah.

An unbeaten 99 from Ed Joyce, and half centuries from captain William Porterfield and Paul Stirling meant Ireland finished the day on a commanding 272 for 2.

After being put in by their opponents Porterfield and Stirling adopted a safety first approach on the docile pitch, sharing a opening partnership of 126 in 46.5 overs.

The pair were rarely troubled by the friendly UAE attack, comprised of just the one front-line seamer and a battery of spinners.

Stirling (61) struck 10 boundaries in his 147-ball stay, before being trapped lbw by Raza early in the afternoon session.

His opening partner Porterfield put the troubles of 2012 behind him with an authoritative innings, which probably deserved a century. He had reached 82 from 221 balls (8 fours, 1 six) before unluckily playing on to Naveed shortly after tea with the total on 187.

Ed Joyce was in superlative form, and a strike rate of 82.50 was more than twice that of the other Irish batsmen. Joyce showed his full range of shots, not being afraid to use his feet to the spinners to hit over the infield.

He was the dominant partner in an unbroken third wicket stand of 85 with Niall O'Brien (24*), just missing out on his hundred when he could only manage a single from the final delivery of the day.

Joyce however wasn't too disappointed to be stranded overnight on 99, and said afterwards their would be no nerves overnight: "I'm not nervous at all. I've never been 99 not out overnight before, but I'm just happy to have scored 99 - if I was to get that score every time I would take it.

"It's a slow and low wicket so if you stay in your crease it can be difficult to score. The lads had given us a great start so I made the conscious decision to try and score about a strike rate of 70, use my feet a bit and maybe take a few more risks than the others. I was a bit more attacking and that helped on that wicket.

It's eight years since Joyce scored a century for Ireland - coincidentally against the UAE in the 2005 ICC Trophy at Stormont, as he guided Ireland to a two-wicket win in a nervous run chase: "I remember that game very well - I think we were chasing about 230 in what was a huge game for Irish cricket. If we'd lost that one, we would have struggled to make the 2007 World Cup. I've done well against the UAE - I've also made a hundred for Sussex when we played them.

"We'll probably look to bat normally in the morning, to maybe another 100 runs or so without losing too many wickets, and push on a little bit more in the afternnoon. We have good hitters coming in further down with people like Kevin O'Brien, Trent Johnston and John Mooney who can all score quickly."

William Porterfield wasn't too surprised at being asked to bat, although he admitted it was a blessing in disguise to lose the toss: "If the bowlers are going to get any assistance it usually comes in the first session, so if you can battle through that it comes pretty decent to bat on. We've got ourselves in a great position but we've got to make that count tomorrow.

"It's pleasing to get a few runs myself but all the batsmen have played well, with Ed (Joyce) being exceptional. We're not setting any targets just yet - we'll bat to lunch and reassess from there. I think the pitch will still be pretty flat, and it's just a matter of applying ourselves and setting a platform for a big total."

Day 2

Ireland's cricketers recorded the highest total in their 158 year history to remain in total control on the second day of their InterContinental Cup clash against the UAE in Sharjah.

Centuries from Ed Joyce (155) and Niall O'Brien (126) helped the Irish amass a mammoth 589/7 before declaring in an effort to take wickets late in the day against the UAE side who had been in the field for 164 overs.

It was a real team effort from Ireland whose top five batsman all passed 50, sharing significant partnerships along the way.

Ed Joyce took only one delivery to turn his overnight 99 into his third century for Ireland - his first since 2005 - and continued to dominate the beleagured UAE attack.

Joyce had reached 155 and looked destined to break another Irish record - Eoin Morgan's highest individual score of 209, also against the UAE back in 2007 - before disaster struck when a firm drive by Niall O'Brien was deflected onto the stumps by Khurram Khan with Joyce out of his ground.

The Sussex captain faced 172 balls for his 155 (15 fours, 2 sixes), and the 3rd wicket stand with O'Brien was worth 181. There was to be no respite for the tiring UAE side as Niall O'Brien and Gary Wilson both played positively, rotating the strike with some excellent shot placement and quick running, while also finding the boundary ropes regularly.

Their fourth-wicket stand of 126 was ended on 494 when O'Brien misjudged a sweep giving Arshad Ali the simplest of catches. His 126 came from 234 balls, and included 11 fours and 1 six.

It was O'Brien's first hundred for Ireland since the InterContinental Cup final win against Namibia in 2008, and brought his total in the competition to six - only Ryan ten Doeschate has scored more.

Andrew White (5) missed out on the run feast, but by that stage Ireland had 519 on the board.

Following the loss of Gary Wilson for 84 (9 fours, 1 six), Kevin O'Brien (34*) and John Mooney (26) provided the late impetus adding 56 in 55 balls. The dismissal of Mooney signalled the declaration, leaving the UAE with a maximum of 26 overs to survive.

Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh impressed in his opening spell, and was rewarded with the wicket of Safdar Niazi who was palpably lbw for 16, playing all around a straight one.

The experienced duo of Khurram Khan (21*) and Arshad Ali (19*) both played sensibly to take UAE to 56 for 1 at the close.

Ireland wicket-keeper Gary Wilson wasn't happy to miss out on a century, but was pleased to be part of the record-breaking team effort: "It's disappointing - I thought I played well and probably deserved a hundred - but having said that I suppose I was lucky not to be out first ball when I might have been lbw!"

Wilson was hopeful that Ireland would be able to force a win in the remaining two days: "It's not easy to score if bowlers keep it straight and that's what we'll be looking to do tomorrow. We will learn from what they have done. The ball swung for a few overs and it's started reversing pretty quickly."

Centurion Niall O'Brien was delighted to have made such a positive start to 2013: "I hope to have a big season after the ups and downs of last year but it's a nice way to start. The team is in a great position in this match and hope we can crack on, but it's going to be hard work. Still, we have a very strong batting line-up and a good varied bowling attack.

"Tim Murtagh is a very good bowler, who has got great control, a like for like with Trent (Johnston) and he has hopefully three or four years ahead of him in Irish colours. Paul Stirling and George Dockrell can also do a job for us in the next couple of days. We have hard cricket ahead of us and hopefully we can get a victory on Friday"

The UAE still have a formidable task in front of them tomorrow, requiring a further 382 to avoid the follow-on.

Day 3

Ireland's cricketers endured a tough examination in the searing sun of Sharjah but still have the upper hand after the third day of their InterContinental Cup clash against the UAE.

After an obdurate stand of 210 between Khurram Khan and Arshad Ali, which left a frustrated Ireland wicketless for two sessions, the taking of the new ball in the final session brought a dramatic turnaround in Irish fortunes.

The dismissal of Emirati skipper Khan, trapped lbw by Trent Johnston (1-39) in the first over with the new ball for 115, saw a resurgent Ireland seize the initative once again. Khan's innings occupied 232 balls, as he combined resolute defence with excellent shot selection, putting away anything remotely loose, as evidenced by his boundary count of 17.

He found the perfect partner in Arshad Ali, who was patience personified in his 95 from 271 deliveries (10 fours). He benefitted from a reprieve on 42, when on the brink of lunch, he was dropped by a diving Gary Wilson in front of first slip following a rare shot of aggression.

Three hours later, his dismissal, caught by Tim Murtagh at mid-on off George Dockrell (2-97) came as a welcome relief to the Irish camp, and their joy increased when Shaman Ainwar fell to Dockrell from the next delivery, palpably lbw not playing a shot.

John Mooney (2-47) further lifted Irish spirits by dismissing Rohan Mustafa (1), and Muhammad Azam (0) in quick succession to leave UAE on 248 for 6 - having lost five wickets for just 38 runs. Swapnil Patil (50*) and Saqib Shah (21*) frustrated Ireland's quest for a further breakthrough before the close - the pair adding an unbroken 54 as their side closed on 302 for 6.

They are still a long way from avoiding the follow-on target of 440, and 287 behind Ireland's record total.

John Mooney, who was returning to the team after eight months out with injury, was glad to be back in Irish colours: "It was of course very pleasing to get a few wickets but to be honest I'm just happy to be back playing having been out since July. It was great to get those five wickets in the final session and a real team effort.

"It was a tough slog out there. I think we got our reward for sticking with it pretty much all day, except for a sloppy 30 minutes before tea. Simmo (Phil Simmons) gave us a reminder at the interval of what we should be doing and things changed quickly. We were helped by the fact that we had a new ball and also getting the breakthrough with the dismissal of Khurram. He's a good player so getting rid of him was massive for us.

"The ball did reverse earlier on today but the two batters were set and played really well. We'll be hoping to get the four remaining wickets as early as possible and probably send them back in. The pitch is very flat and getting the wickets we need for the win is going to be very difficult."

An exhausted George Dockrell - he's bowled 37 overs in the innings thus far - was clearly relieved that Ireland bounced back after two barren sessions. "It's the toughest day I've been involved with playing for Ireland. The deck is particularly hard on the bowlers. There's nothing there for the seamers - the ball might swing for an over or two but them it softens and there's no movement at all. Spin wise I've only turned one all day, out of the rough.

"I was more expensive than I'd have liked - I just bowled too many bad balls - in a game like this I'd be aiming to concede two or less. After bowling so many overs with so little turn, I knew the key to getting wickets was all about building pressure. I didn't bowl with enough discipline so I'm a bit disappointed with myself to be honest. Having said that to get the two wickets towards the end of the day was a huge bonus.

"On this track you need to get batsmen early on in their innings. Once they settle and get past 20, it's difficult to get them out as you saw with our guys when they batted. The batsmen tend to be nervous at the start until they settle so you can get wickets in clusters as we did in that final session.

"The way the pitch has played and been prepared it's going to be hard to get a result, but we'll come out hard in the morning and do our upmost."

Day 4

Ireland settled for a draw in their InterContinental Cup match with UAE, collecting 9 points by virtue of having a first innings lead in the contest, which keeps them in pole position in the table on 76 points, ahead of Afghanistan (64) and Scotland (46).

Resuming on 302 for 6, the UAE were hampered by the loss of Saqib Shah, forced to retire hurt with a recurrence of his shoulder injury, sustained on the first day.

That exposed the UAE tail, and Trent Johnston took full advantage, bowling Fayyaz Ahmed to achieve his 250th wicket for Ireland. He didn't have long to wait for his next two, Ahmed Raza and Mohammed Naveed falling in quick succesion, leaving Swapnil Patil stranded on 89 in their total of 360.

Those wickets mean Johnston occupies fourth position in the all-time Ireland wicket-takers list, just four behind Kyle McCallan (256), with legendary figures Jimmy Boucher (307) and Dermott Monteith (326) very much in his sights.

Ireland declined to enforce the follow-on despite the UAE being 229 in arrears clearly having one eye on the two crucial World Cup qualifying matches on Monday and Wednesday. Having been in the field for 138 overs in oppressive heat and with the pitch benign, Ireland opted to rest their bowling attack given the importance of those World Cricket League games.

Ireland lost Paul Stirling (16) early, but skipper William Porterfield and the promoted Andrew White took full advantage of the friendly conditions.

The pair added 133 for the second wicket before White edged behind for 52 - his 18 half-century for his country. He also passed Stephen Warke to achieve second position in the all-time run aggregates list - only Porterfield is now above him.

Porterfield had missed out on a century in the first innings, but he made no mistake this time, batting fluently to reach his 9th hundred - also a record. The left-hander had faced 165 balls and struck two sixes and four boundaries.

Three deliveries after he reached the landmark, Ireland declared for the second time in the game, on 188 for 3, and the teams shook hands on a draw.

Porterfield was delighted to have made a century after being dismissed for 82 in the first innings: "I was disappointed to miss out on the first innings, but it was good to get out there today and have enough time to get one under my belt," he said.

On the decision not to enforce the follow-on, or perhaps contrive a run chase with a sporting declaration, the 28-year-old said: "It was something we thought about doing last night, especially when we took those quick wickets in the final session. It was probably still in the balance this morning about what we should do, but as you've seen over the four days, only 19 wickets fell.

"It's a very flat wicket and it would have been hard on the bowlers to ask them to go out and do it again after spending nearly 140 overs in those conditions. Some people might think it was negative but we would have been running our bowlers into the ground, and it would be pointless seeing as we've got two massive games coming up next week.

"The game was good from the point of view that it gave everyone a chance to get some competitive cricket under our belts. Apart from the lads who went to the Bangladesh Premier League we haven't played cricket for five months, so from that perspective it's been good. It would have been nice to get a win but we knew we were well placed in the table with two games left."

Trent Johnston placed the pitch as one of the three flattest he's ever bowled on - alongside Windhoek in 2005 and Nairobi in 2008: "It was hard out work out there, and very difficult for the bowlers. George (Dockrell) didn't see a ball turn in his 46 overs, while the new ball only swung for about one over in total. To get nine points here was good, as I couldn't see us getting 14 wickets in the day, after only 13 fell on the first three days. The WCL is the priority but I love playing four-day cricket and we are confident of getting enough points against Netherlands and Scotland to make the final.

"I knew I was close to 250 wickets - it's been a great 10 years for me with the Irish team, and it's nice to have those little milestones. I've still got a few goals and that's the first one ticked off."

Johnston paid tribute to his record-breaking colleagues Andrew White and William Porterfield saying: "Whitey was a senior player when I came into the team, and he has carried on proving how good he is. He has been a colossus for us in this competition - when we don't have the county players he has stepped up and got big runs.

"Porty's work ethic is phenomenal and what he gets he deserves. He is turning into a great leader and he is quite capable of getting 10,000 runs. Let's hope he can do that and continue to win games for Ireland."

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Day 1
Day 2
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