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Rankin and O'Brien turn on style to put Ireland in control

By Ian Callender

Never judge a pitch until both sides have batted is an adage which has stood the test of time, and the bowlers continue to hold the upper hand in the Dubai International Stadium.

Ireland's modest first day total of 251 proved more than adequate as they claimed the first-innings points and a lead of 110, which had been extended to an imposing 296 with two days to play in their final Intercontinental Cup clash against Scotland.

Boyd Rankin and Kevin O'Brien were the bowling stars in the first session as Scotland's inexperienced middle order was exposed and destroyed, with Ireland taking 7-47 in 17 overs to reduce the Scots to 101 for seven.

O'Brien, at halfway the clear favourite to be man of the match - he has so far scored 91 unbeaten runs - took a wicket in each of his first three overs, and Rankin's pace and bounce was enough to force three batsmen to play false strokes.

Tim Murtagh, economy personified in his first two spells, added two wickets in his last to finish off the Scots in 53 overs.

More rash strokes from Ireland's best batsmen - a feature of the first innings - followed a ridiculous leg before decision against Paul Stirling, who was left with a bruise on his hip, but Gary Wilson and Simi Singh led the latest recovery to allow Ireland to finish the day on 186-5.

Wilson was still kicking himself last night over his dismissal, run out after setting off for an impossible single, because he was in no trouble and had just brought up his 28th half century for Ireland - but still has reached 100 only once.

But Singh is finally getting the chance to show his form with the bat and has hit two sixes in his 34 not out.

With no threat of bad weather, he can bat for as long as he wants and then let the bowlers finish the job.

But with Afghanistan having reduced UAE to 100-5 in reply to their 510-9, it looks like Ireland will have the satisfaction of winning the match, but not the Cup.

Belfast Telegraph

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