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Irish crushed as ace Khan turns screw with century

By Richard Bullick

Pakistan's former Instonians professional Imad Wasim claimed five wickets, including three with his final four balls, as Ireland were on the receiving end of a Malahide hiding.

A whirlwind maiden ODI century from Sharjeel Khan had put Pakistan out of Ireland's reach before halfway in yesterday's rain-delayed series opener.

His international best of 152 paved the way for an imposing Pakistan score and effectively ended Irish hopes of repeating their famous upset at the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

In reply, the men in green were scuttled out for a paltry 82, which felt like a throwback to the bad old days, as a concerning year for Irish cricket continues.

To have had any chance the hosts needed a flying start, which prompted Paul Stirling's return to the top of the order having been held back in recent matches.

Ireland's best batsman Ed Joyce remained as the other opener having been so effective going in first in last month's Afghanistan series when he piled up 399 runs in four matches.

So captain William Porterfield, who hit a century when these teams last met in the 2015 World Cup in Australia, dropped to No.3. Unfortunately, he hadn't long to wait for his chance to bat, Stirling being bowled by a Mohammad Amir in-swinger with the second ball of the innings without a run on the board.

Ireland lived dangerously, surviving a run-out appeal before Joyce was dropped at slip in Amir's next over, though the experienced pair did briefly commence a rebuilding job.

But Porterfield was bowled by Umar Gul, making his return to the Pakistan team, and Joyce soon perished to leave Ireland perilously placed at 28 for three.

Crowd-pleaser Kevin O'Brien edged to the keeper after hitting his first ball for four, giving Gul a third quick wicket, and Ireland never recovered, ultimately leaving more than half their allotted overs unused.

They will be aiming for a redemptive display when the teams meet again tomorrow ahead of Pakistan's five-match ODI series in England.

Earlier, Ireland had won the toss and opted to bowl with Craig Young and John Anderson the men omitted from their squad of 13 while Pakistan rested star spinner Yasir Shah.

The home crowd might have been expecting fireworks from some of the household names in this Pakistan squad but instead it was one of the unfamiliar faces who did the main damage.

When the game got under way almost two hours late, with only three overs per side deducted, Sharjeel looked like he was keen to make up for lost time.

He needed a mere 61 balls to bring up his three figures and faced only 86 deliveries in total, hitting nine sixes and 16 other boundaries, before top-edging to the keeper. When Pakistan raced past 200 inside 30 overs the writing was on the wall and, although Ireland did well to stem the flow, a final flourish lifted them way beyond the 300 mark with half centuries from Shoaib Ahmed and Mohammad Nawaz.

Durham's Barry McCarthy had struck early on, removing Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali to maintain his record of taking at least one wicket on each of his first seven Ireland appearances.

He finished with four for 62 while Ireland's most experienced seamer Tim Murtagh of Middlesex deserves a mention for keeping Pakistan to only 38 runs from his 10 overs.

Belfast Telegraph


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