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Bowlers have a ball as Irish regain belief in time for T20 finals

By Ian Callender

The perfect bowling performance ensured Ireland qualified for tomorrow's finals day at the inaugural Desert T20 tournament with a comfortable 24-run victory over UAE.

Captain William Porterfield said after their long-awaited win in the shortest format against Namibia on Tuesday that the team had the momentum to make it back-to-back wins and Boyd Rankin, Craig Young and Kevin O'Brien delivered with five wickets in the first four overs to reduce the hosts to 21 for five, in pursuit of Ireland's 160 for six.

A few lusty blows, including three sixes in the last over, bowled by Paul Stirling, made the result closer than it was and Ireland can finally approach a T20 match with confidence.

Rankin missed Tuesday's game - the last in Abu Dhabi before the tournament moved to the Dubai International Stadium for the final three days - with a minor back problem and the way he steamed in for his first two overs yesterday proved it was only a precautionary measure.

It always helps when you take a wicket with the first ball of the match and when Young also struck with his first delivery, thanks to a sharp catch at slip, the current Bready player matched his illustrious predecessor for pace in an impressive new ball partnership.

Not that Porterfield took them for granted. After Rankin had taken his second and third wickets with his eighth and ninth balls, Young was immediately replaced by O'Brien for the fourth over and he needed only four deliveries to get among the wickets, wrecking the middle stump of Mohammad Shahzad.

Hard work done, the spinners came on to keep it tight - well, two of them, Andy McBrine was not even used - and Jacob Mulder continued his happy knack of taking wickets to ensure no late scares for Ireland.

The batting scorecard, in truth, looks better on paper than in reality as Stuart Poynter was dropped first ball, Stirling survived chances on 10 and 31 and there were 21 'dot balls' in the powerplay (the first six overs).

But with the help of two sixes and two fours from Stirling they still reached 43 for one and when O'Brien and Gary Wilson started hitting sixes for fun (they shared five) in the 12th and 13th overs, Ireland were in complete control of the game.

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