O'BRIEN GIVES IRELAND SLIGHT ADVANTAGE IN ICUP CLASH
Niall O'Brien's half century has given Ireland a slight advantage after the first day of the InterContinental Cup clash with Papua New Guinea in Townsville.
The veteran left-hander top scored with a patient 63 as Ireland finished on 232 for 5, on a day which saw 21 overs lost due to a combination of bad light and rain.
O'Brien will be disappointed however at being dismissed just before the close of play - miscuing a pull shot off Norman Vanua having batted for 168 balls in a marathon effort.
The Dubliner will have been eyeing a record-equalling seventh hundred in the competition, before falling to the second new ball.
It was at times an attritional affair, with Papua New Guinea's attack offering few easy pickings for the experienced Irish top order. Their discipline, combined with a sluggish pitch and slow outfield meant the rate never got above three for most of the day.
Skipper William Porterfield (15) fell early, but Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce added 54 to wrest back the initiative. Stirling chopped on for 42, but it was the prize wicket of Joyce which had the Pacific Islanders whooping with delight.
Joyce had scored two double hundreds in Ireland's first two games in the competition but was stumped by Jack Vare off spinner Mahuru Dai for 35, beaten by the turn as he advanced down the track trying to break the shackles.
Gary Wilson joined Niall O'Brien and the pair added 69 for the fourth wicket, with the Belfast man striking five boundaries in his 48, before being trapped lbw by Chad Soper.
Kevin O'Brien is still there unbeaten on 19, being joined by Andy McBrine - batting at number seven for the first time at international level. He's promoted to the key slot following the retirement of John Mooney and the foot injury suffered by Stuart Thompson.
Ireland's batting isn't perhaps as strong as in recent times - Head Coach John Bracewell opting to play an extra bowler in the sapping conditions - Andrew Balbirnie missing out after being nearly an ever present in 2015.
Papua New Guinea will reflect on a day of missed opportunities in the field - dropped catches and possible run outs going begging.
The game is till very much in the balance, with a crucial morning session tomorrow possibly determing the destiny of the match.
Ireland will be hoping to add another 100 runs at least, with PNG looking to keep them under 300, as the second new ball is just four overs old.
IRELAND ON TOP DESPITE VALA CENTURY
Ireland remain in the ascendancy after the second day of their ICC InterContinental Cup clash with Papua New Guinea in Townsville.
However their quest for a third successive win in the competition met a stumbling block in the form of Asad Vala who scored his second first class century in only his third match.
The stylish left-hander was still there unbeaten at the close of play - scoring 104 out of his sides 166 for 7. He's faced 205 balls to date in his one-man resistance show - striking seven boundaries.
He and Jack Vare (22) shared the only partnership of note - 55 for the 6th wicket, after PNG had been reduced to 94 for 5.
Tim Murtagh (3-30) was the most successful of the Irish attack, with Bready pacemen past and present - Boyd Rankin (2-16) and Craig Young (2-36) the other wicket takers.
Rankin in particular proved hard to score from - his six overs coming at an economy rate of just 1.00 on another attritional day for the batsmen.
Earlier in the day Ireland, resuming on 232 for 5, lost Kevin O'Brien (19) early. Despite a seventh wicket stand of 41 between George Dockrell (24) and Andy McBrine (23), they lost four wickets for just nine runs to finish on a disappointing 289 all out.
Norman Vanua proved the destroyer-in-chief for the Pacific Islanders, claiming 5 for 59.
With a new ball due in four overs Ireland will be confident of obtaining six points for the first innings lead, but if they are to win the game, they will be keen to take the remaining three wickets as quickly as possible in the morning.
Although spinners George Dockrell and Andy McBrine went wicketless today, Ireland will be hopeful both will play a key role on the final two days of what has been a tense affair to date.
IRELAND STAY IN CONTROL AGAINST PNG
A CENTURY stand between Kevin O'Brien and Andy McBrine has put Ireland in a strong position going into the final day of their InterContinental Cup clash with Papua New Guinea in Townsville.
The pair came together with Ireland on 129 for 5 - an overall lead of 230 - sharing an unbroken 6th wicket partnership of 115 in 139 balls.
O'Brien struck five fours and two sixes in his unbeaten 75 from 95 balls, while McBrine also cleared the boundary ropes in his 40 not out - the first maximum of the match coming late on the third day.
Earlier in the day, the Irish had secured the six points on offer for the first innings lead, after taking the last three wickets for the addition of just 22 runs. Asad Vala, the last to be dismmised for a superb 120.
Tim Murtagh claimed the final wicket to finish with 4 for 33, with the other successful Irish bowlers Boyd Rankin (3-21), Craig Young (2-42), and George Dockrell (1-36).
Ireland's positivity in their second innings saw the downfall of William Porterfield, Paul Stirling and Niall O'Brien cheaply, and at 42 for 3, PNG were very much in the game.
Ed Joyce and Gary Wilson steadied the ship with a patient 4th wicket stand of 76, before Wilson was trapped lbw on 27.
Joyce fell soon after, unluckily run out for 58 after an O'Brien drive was deflected onto his stumps by Norman Vanua.
Skipper Porterfield delared setting the Pacific Islanders a tough challenge on 346 to win, and their task became tougher as Murtagh once again got the breakthrough, as Lega Siaka (14) edged through to Niall O'Brien.
There was no further success for the Irish as Vani Morea (18*) and first innings centurion Vala (17*) took PNG to 50 for 1 at the close.
The final day starts with all results still possible. Ireland will be favourites to claim the nine wickets needed to secure the full 20 points on offer, but will be wary of the hosts ability to chase down a total. Asad Vala's unbeaten 124 leading their successful pursuit of 305 against The Netherlands last summer.
Ireland will be confident of wrapping up the innings win which would see them on top of the table with maximum points from their opening two games in the competition.
IRELAND COMPLETE WIN OVER PAPUA NEW GUINEA
IRELAND'S quest for Test status moved a step closer after they completed a 145 run win on the final day of their ICC InterContinental Cup clash against a determined Papua New Guinea side in Townsville.
Tim Murtagh (2-25) gave the Irish the perfect start to the day, when he dismissed the danger man Asad Vala (20).
The first innings centurion edged behind to a diving Niall O'Brien - one of five dismissals for the keeper. O'Brien now has fifty dismissals in the InterContinental Cup - well clear of his nearest challenger, Mohammad Shahzad of Afghanistan (42).
He was again called into action as Craig Young (2-50) found the edge of opener Vani Morea (35). Kevin O'Brien (1-24) trapped Mahuru Dai (4), and Andy McBrine (1-36) claimed his first wicket of the game, when Chris Amini was smartly stumped.
A stubborn sixth wicket stand of 54 between Sese Bau (45) and Jack Vare (31) held up the Irish victory charge for 27 overs, but their resistance was blown away by Boyd Rankin (3-31). The giant paceman removed both along with Norman Vanua in the space of sixteen deliveries to take the Irish to the brink of victory.
George Dockrell (1-22) took the ninth wicket - O'Brien claiming his second stumping, and John Reva's brief cameo was ended when Tim Murtagh collected an easy catch off the bowling of Craig Young.
The win means Ireland now top the table with maximum points from their first three games. Their haul of 60 points sees them 14 clear of second placed The Netherlands.