FOR the second day in a row, Ireland won a match they probably shouldn't have and are now in pole position to win Group A at the World Twenty20 Qualifiers in the UAE and go through to the finals in Bangladesh in March.
Trent Johnston may have missed out on the man of the match award on Saturday despite top scoring with 39, but he made the frame yesterday for his last over heroics when the UAE needed nine to win with three wickets left.
He didn't actually take a wicket in his first four balls, but conceded only three runs while two batsmen were run out, the second crucially leaving the No 11 on strike for the penultimate ball.
A Johnston yorker wrecked his stumps and Ireland had performed another Houdini act.
"I've been hitting my yorkers quite well through training, so I wasn't going to deviate from that. I knew what I had to do and it came off," said the 39-year-old.
But he was quick to deflect the attention to the Ireland bowler he felt won the match.
"It was a great spell of bowling from Max Sorensen (2-17), an outstanding four overs into the (stiff) breeze."
Along with Paul Stirling, who outbowled number one spinner George Dockrell, Sorensen put the breaks on the Emirates charge. After seven overs they were 52 for one but eight overs later, they were 91 for four and still needing 48 from the last five overs.
But with Alex Cusack, Ireland's normally reliable 'death bowler' having an off-day, 15 came off the penultimate over leaving Johnston to pull it back.
The Ireland batsmen had made another faltering start with both openers back in the pavilion inside seven overs with only 42 runs scored, but Kevin O'Brien and Gary Wilson stayed to the final over in a 92 runs stand, which has been bettered only by Ireland openers in T20 internationals.
Remarkably, Kevin O'Brien received the man of the match award for his run-a-ball 47 ahead of Wilson, who scored 53 not out from 44 balls and made a fine stumping, but Johnston was more concerned about Ireland's position in the group.
"We certainly haven't been at our best in the tournament so far, leaving 20-30 runs out there with the bat, but we've played the next best three teams in the group and we have three wins so are in a great position," he said.
Hong Kong, who play Canada today, are the only other unbeaten team in the group while Nepal, who face Scotland today are, remarkably, the only team who have not lost in Group B, which also includes Afghanistan and the Netherlands. Indeed, the Scots have lost their first two games.
Ireland have a two-day break before returning to action on Wednesday against the USA.
Saturday's result: Ireland 168-5 (T Johnston 39 not out, K O'Brien 31, N O'Brien 27, G Wilson 24) Canada 166-3 (A Bagai 67 not out, R Gunasekera 65; M Sorensen 2-23). Ireland won by 2 runs.