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Ireland enter new era on the back of emphatic triumph

 

By Ian Callender

It's over and out for Ireland in Associate cricket and they signed off in emphatic style with a huge victory over their fiercest rivals for the last 130 years.

The margin of 203 runs confirmed it was time for the two teams to go their separate ways and while Scotland must wait to find out if and when they will have another multi-day game, Ireland's next competitive red-ball cricket will be their first Test match against Pakistan in Malahide next May.

It will never be as easy as this again for Ireland who may now have the other 11 Test nations as their peers but much work lies ahead, especially in the batting.

On a blameless pitch in the Dubai International Stadium, Ireland could manage only 522 runs across two innings of their final Intercontinental Cup match, and while their superior bowling attack may have won the game with a day to spare, the batsmen know they cannot afford to give their wickets away as easily as they did here.

Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien, their two most experienced ex-county players, should be available for the Test but the rest of the side will almost certainly come from this line-up and if it is a repeat of this batting display then it will be another three-day game - with a different result.

Kevin O'Brien was caught down the leg side in the second over yesterday but Simi Singh reached a deserved 50 in 101 balls before getting the second umpiring howler of the innings, given out caught down the leg side, a touch only the Dutch umpire - who had given Paul Stirling out on Thursday - saw. After his departure, the innings lasted only another 14 balls with the bowlers knowing they had more than enough runs on the board - 381 in front. Boyd Rankin and Tim Murtagh both struck in their first four overs and Peter Chase then ripped through the middle order to finish with his best Ireland figures.

Rankin was particularly hostile in his final spell, having Chris Sole caught at leg gully and only the bravery of debutant Mitchell Rao kept him out.

A feature of the final day was the Ireland fielding which, if maintained, will stand them in good stead when they step up to the next level.

But it will be Afghanistan, their new fiercest rivals, who will be the last winners of the I-Cup. Needing only a draw against UAE, the hosts started the final day still 122 behind with seven wickets left.

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