Balbirnie in imperious form for his maiden 100
Andrew Balbirnie consolidated his place at No 3 in the Ireland batting order with his maiden one-day international century against UAE as Ireland made it two wins out of two under new coach Graham Ford.
The former Middlesex professional was promoted up one place for last month's ODI's series against Afghanistan in the absence of the injured Ed Joyce, and although he scored only 39 runs in three innings, he kept his place at first wicket down for the first match of the Tri-Series in Dubai, which continues tomorrow with the first of two games against Scotland.
He was dismissed without scoring last Thursday but with Joyce sitting out Saturday's second game against the hosts, he stayed put and passed his previous best ODI score of 97, in Hobart against Zimbabwe at the 2015 World Cup, when he batted at No 4.
But with the William Porterfield-Paul Stirling opening partnership seemingly back in favour and Joyce scoring his first ODI century last week at No 4, Ireland's new top order for the World Cup qualifying tournament in March appears to be Ford's first major decision.
"It's fantastic to get the hundred and share the partnership with Purdy (Porterfield) as he's so experienced," said Balbirnie.
"Getting the ODI hundred is something I've been wanting to achieve especially being put up the order to number three, where there's obviously that bit more responsibility on me to make scores. Whenever you score a hundred for your country it's always a special day."
The opposition attack may not have been the strongest but having already hit a one-day century against New Zealand A, at the ICC Academy Ground which is staging every game in the Tri-series, and hit 205 against the Netherlands in the Intercontinental Cup last August, Balbirnie has always been capable of the big scores and with so many big games ahead he is hitting form at the perfect time.
Balbirnie hit 102 from 109 balls, with 12 fours and a six, but was still upstaged on the day by his captain who batted for all but nine balls of the innings before Porterfield was caught for 139. Their partnership of 201 was Ireland's second highest in an ODI and only the second time two Ireland batsmen have scored a century in the same ODI, with both records set in the same match against Kenya in 2007.
Their total of 301 for five was never seriously threatened although, with Boyd Rankin rested and George Dockrell having an off day, Porterfield was lucky that Andy McBrine, playing his first international for 10 months, came up trumps. The Donemana all-rounder took two for 40 including the big wicket of Thursday's top scorer Rameez Shahzad, who had just reached a second consecutive half century.
Meanwhile, Paul Stirling and Simi Singh, who has yet to play in the series, hope to play in the Indian Premier League -the prestigious T20 tournament which attracts the world's best - in April. They will find out if they are bought when the auction takes place on January 27.