Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Ireland just not up to the test

Gary Wilson is caught against Pakistan
Gary Wilson is caught against Pakistan

A superb innings by former Limavady professional Kamran Akmal ended Ireland's hopes of a first ever series win against a Full Member as Pakistan scored 97 in the last 13 overs to win the second one day international in Clontarf by two wickets.

Akmal, dismissed with four runs needed for victory, was named man-of-the-match after hitting 81 from 85 balls to rescue his team from 133 for seven in pursuit of a victory target of 230.

He could not have done it alone, however, and the main destroyer of Ireland in the closing stages was Wahab Riaz who hit 47 – 40 of them in boundaries, including four maximums – to take the game, cruelly, away from Ireland.

For the second game in a row, Trent Johnston and Tim Murtagh produced a superb new ball spell, each taking two wickets to reduce Pakistan to 17 for four.

And with Pakistan getting further and further behind the clock and continuing to lose wickets through the middle of the innings, it looked as if Kevin O'Brien's stunning catch, low in the covers, to dismiss Abdur Rehman would give Ireland that elusive first home victory against a major Test nation.

That, however, remains the difference between the elite and rest. They have cool heads under pressure and it was the Ireland bowlers who cracked.

Murtagh's last four overs went for 41, Alex Cusack's figures of six overs for 15 when the going was good were transformed into nine overs for 48 and even George Dockrell, surprisingly spelled after eight overs for 16, saw his runs tally doubled in his final two overs as Akmal and Riaz won the game for the tourists.

Almost forgotten, undeservedly so, in the mayhem at the end, helped by the fanatical Pakistanis in the crowd, was Ed Joyce's second one-day international century, and his first for Ireland.

Joyce, who finished 116 not out from 132 balls with 12 fours and a six, batted for all but five balls of the innings.

He was rushed to the middle following Paul Stirling's third ball dismissal – Thursday's century maker mistiming a pull and skying a simple catch to mid-wicket – and he quickly lost his captain, William Porterfield, caught behind off Asad Ali, one of three changes in the Pakistan line-up from the tied first game.

Ireland must have been delighted to see a team-sheet without Saeed Ajmal, the world's best ODI bowler and the 7ft 1ins opening bowler Mohammad Irfan, but their replacements, fighting for a place in next month's Champions Trophy team, justified their call-ups.

Rehman ripped through the Ireland middle order, taking four wickets, and Riaz ended Niall O'Brien's promising innings before his batting heroics at the end of the day.

Joyce's only real support came from Kevin O'Brien in a fifth wicket partnership of 94.

Following his dismissal, Ireland lost three more wickets for 11 runs, including James Shannon, given his ODI debut in place of Instonians club-mate Andrew White, and it needed Murtagh to stay with Joyce for five overs to get Ireland up to 229, which proved below-par.

Porterfield gave the credit to the Pakistan batsmen, rather than there being any criticism of his bowlers.

"It was heartbreaking from the position we were in after 10 overs and if we had got Riaz early it would have been a different story," he said.

"He struck those sixes as clean as any No. 9 I've seen in quite a while so fair play to him.

"Kamran is very strong through the off side and it was a class innings. They are allowed to play good shots and they took the momentum away from us."

Pakistan captain Misbah also praised the Ireland performances.

"They are an improved team and played very well. Their batting line-up is good enough to compete with any Test nation and while they may struggle with their bowling line-up when they go out of Ireland they are a very mature side," he said.

Nice words but not much consolation after yet another narrow defeat.

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