IRELAND were bailed out by a giant slice of fortune and big innings from Gary Wilson and Kevin O’Brien as they beat the United Arab Emirates in a thriller at the Gabba.
After their stunning opening win over the West Indies in Pool B at the World Cup, Ireland looked to be deep in trouble this time against supposedly inferior opposition.
But 80 from man of the match Wilson and a spectacular 25-ball innings of exactly 50 from the destructive O’Brien spurred Ireland to a two-wicket victory, reaching their target of 279 with four balls to spare.
Early in the innings, former England batsman Ed Joyce incredibly survived a delivery striking his off stump, when the bails bounced and shuffled but landed immaculately back in place in their groove.
Left-hander Joyce was 16 not out and went on to make 37, crucial runs come the end of the game for Ireland as they made it two wins from two matches so far.
Joyce had another stroke of luck when spinner Mohammad Tauqir failed to grip on to a caught-and-bowled chance. But his run of fortune ran out in the 19th over when Amjad finally had his man.
Having reached 37, Joyce drove outside off stump but snicked the ball to wicketkeeper Swapnil Patil.
It looked like a significant blow to Ireland, who fell to 72 for two, having earlier lost Paul Sterling for just three runs in the second over.
Wilson said of his runs: “I was delighted. I hadn’t had too many coming into the game so it was nice to come back and make a good contribution.
“I was confident. I told myself it was my day and luckily enough it worked out.
“I’ve batted a lot with Kev over the years at county and international level and we dovetailed quite well together, it was great to have a partner like that.”
He added: “It was a little bit closer than we would have liked, but all we can ask for is that we came through at this stage of the tournament so we’re pretty pleased.
“We’re ‘two from two’ and that’s all we can ask for.”
Wilson had made just a single against the West Indies nine days ago, but the Surrey batsman was back in prime form as he collected his runs from just 69 balls, stepping up the pace late in the innings.
He was eventually caught out in the 48th over, held well by Amjad Javed at gully off Mohammad Naveed.
The same combination accounted for O’Brien immediately after Ireland’s number seven brought up his half-century with two sixes in three balls.
Amjad was the bowler who had seen the ball clattered over the ropes, but had his revenge by having O’Brien caught by Naveed at cover.
Having earlier lost Sterling, Ireland were plunged into deep trouble when Joyce, captain Will Porterfield and Niall O’Brien joined him back in the dressing room. Porterfield and Niall O’Brien both swept and missed to costly effect against off-spinner Mohammad Tauqir.
From 97 for four, and behind on the run rate, Ireland were second favourites, but Andy Balbirnie, who made a handy
30, and Wilson began the rebuilding job. Kevin O’Brien set about savaging the UAE attack once he reached the crease, with 11.2 overs remaining and Ireland 108 runs short, batting in the vogue that brought him a 50-ball century against England in a winning cause at the 2011 World Cup. The work was incomplete when the key protagonists departed, but Alex Cusack and George Dockrell, who punched away the winning runs, scrambled the team over the line.
Ireland’s dramatic revival meant the excellent century from UAE number six Shaiman Anwar, who plundered an aggressive 106 from 83 balls in a team total of 278 for nine, went unrewarded.
The biggest test yet for Ireland comes next, on 3 March, when they tackle South Africa in Canberra.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS