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Irish expect another tight finish against Italy

Ireland played the first of three back-to-back games in the World Twenty20 Qualifiers this morning against the United States, but they were already bracing themselves for another last over finish against Italy early tomorrow.

Not playing at their best, Ireland have proved the masters of the nail-biting finish in their previous two games, beating Canada and hosts UAE.

Each of the Italians' last two games have also gone to the wire, losing to Uganda off the penultimate ball on Monday and they took Namibia to the last ball yesterday but came out on the wrong side of that as well, by three wickets.

National coach Phil Simmons took a voluntary net session on the adjacent Oval ground in Abu Dhabi yesterday with the three players yet to be involved in any of Ireland's games, Stuart Thompson, Andy McBrine and James Shannon, joined by captain William Porterfield, John Mooney, George Dockrell and Niall O'Brien.

Simmons is not expected to make any changes to the Ireland line-up – fitness permitting – until they are assured of winning the group which will confirm their passage to the finals in Bangladesh next March.

Indeed, Ireland dropped to third in the table, albeit on run-rate with a game in hand, after UAE ended Hong Kong's unbeaten record yesterday.

Meanwhile, holders Coleraine will play North Down in the match of the first round of next season's Ulster Cup.

The game is a repeat of last year's semi final although this time the NCU side has home advantage.

Ulster Cup first round draw: CIYMS v Strabane, Eglinton v Instonians, Muckamore v Bready, Brigade v Lisburn, Waringstown v Fox Lodge, Ardmore v CSNI, North Down v Coleraine. Bye: Donemana. Ties to be played on Saturday, May 31 (Reserve date Sunday, June 15)

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