On-fire Rankin turns up the heat as Ireland triumph
Even the most extreme conditions experienced by any Ireland squad could not stop William Porterfield leading his side to another maximum points victory on their journey towards Test match cricket.
The temperature in Townsville yesterday was 32 degrees but it "felt like 42" so to take nine wickets against a battling and competitive Papua New Guinea with more than a session and 145 runs to spare on the final day ensured this win was as satisfying as any for the four-times Intercontinental Cup winners, who had Boyd Rankin back on duty after more than seven years away.
"We had to do it the hard way after losing the toss and getting the worst of the batting conditions," said Porterfield.
"But all credit to the bowlers, they got us back into the game. I could only use the pace bowlers in 4-5 over spells because of the heat but there was never a point when we let it get away from us against a team who made us work for every wicket.
"In fact, that's the most application any team has shown against us in an I-Cup game and a lot of credit must go to them."
During a stubborn sixth wicket partnership which held up Ireland for 24 overs, a quarter of the overs available yesterday, it looked as if the Irish could be denied the points that would move them 14 points clear at the top.
But Porterfield was able to throw the red ball to Rankin - who was back in an Ireland shirt following a stint with the England team - to try and get the breakthrough.
He not only ended the stand, with his second ball, but followed up with two more wickets in three balls and 23 minutes later the final resistance had ended, Craig Young picking up the last, his fourth wicket of the match and the 17th for the pacemen.
Rankin and Tim Murtagh both deserved their six wickets apiece - each bowled a remarkable 33 overs - while five of the six wicket-takers were grateful to Niall O'Brien who, when he claimed his seventh dismissal, became the first wicket-keeper, from any country to reach 50 in the competition.
Ireland's next I-Cup game, the fourth of seven, will be against Hong Kong at Stormont, starting on August 30.
Jos Buttler's second successive one-day international century, and a touch of all-round brilliance from Ben Stokes, helped England to victory in a rain-interrupted run-fest against South Africa in Bloemfontein.
Buttler (105) followed up his 46-ball hundred, in his last attempt in this format against Pakistan in Dubai, with another blaze of boundaries as England piled up their second-highest ODI total of 399 for nine.
Quinton de Kock's career-best 138 not out, his ninth ODI hundred and third in his last four innings, kept South Africa in contention at the Mangaung Oval.
But when a forecast storm wiped out any further play, the hosts' 250 for five in 33.3 overs was 39 runs too few according to Duckworth-Lewis, and England went 1-0 up with four to play.
They fell just short of their all-time best 408 for nine, against New Zealand at Edgbaston just last summer. Then despite De Kock's 67-ball hundred, South Africa's chase was just off the pace when the rain arrived.