Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Ireland still favourites for final spot

Ireland coach Phil Simmons is without county stars
Ireland coach Phil Simmons is without county stars

Ireland must complete their Intercontinental Cup programme without their county professionals, but Phil Simmons' three-times winners are still firm favourites for a place in their fourth final at the end of the year.

A maximum points victory last week, here in Sharjah against the UAE, would have all but secured one of the top two places – those teams will meet in a five-day decider – but mainly because of the lifeless pitch served up by their hosts, which probably would have needed eight days to get a positive result rather than the allocated four, Ireland settled for a draw.

Still, they got the second best outcome, a winning draw made up of six points for the first innings lead plus three for the stalemate which leaves Ireland on 76 points after five of the seven rounds of matches.

They are 12 points clear of second placed Afghanistan but the battle for third is still unclear because the Netherlands do not play Namibia until next month. If the Namibians win with the full 20 points they will be just a point behind the Afghans, while maximum points for the Dutch would put them on 50, good enough for third place.

However, although Namibia would be closer to the top with a home win, it would not be the worst result for Ireland because the west Africans next match is against Afghanistan, when the teams will, effectively, knock one or other out of contention.

Ireland's destiny is still very much in their own hands because the Dutch are next up at the beginning of July in Deventer with a home game against Scotland at the end of the summer.

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