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Cricket: Highest ever run-chase sees fighting Irish home

So much for playing out the day for a draw.

The ‘A’ team produced the biggest ever run-chase by an Ireland side to score a scarcely believable 414 for five and beat Gloucestershire 2nd XI with more than five overs to spare.

Andrew Balbirnie was the ultimate match-winner with an undefeated 148, from 201 balls with 19 fours, but every batsman was a hero in a victory which capped a remarkable match.

Remember, this was the Ireland side which had conceded 494 for five on day one and when they were bowled out for 230 in their first innings, defeat without the county batting again looked to be on the cards.

But Gloucestershire, much to the Ireland’s amazement, chose to bat again and after losing the first five sessions of the match, comfortably, the Irish emphatically won the remaining four.

By the close on day 2 they had grabbed the initiative by taking eight wickets for just 146, but still a hard-earned draw looked the most likely scenario when the county side finally declared on their overnight total.

But against inexperienced opposition, batting was suddenly as easy as it had appeared on day one. Chris Dougherty and Ben Ackland put on 84 in 20 overs but even then it seemed like only a good start; victory was still not being contemplated.

When both openers plus captain James Shannon were dismissed in 31 balls, reducing the visitors to 98 for three, the draw was still a long-shot.

But then Balbirnie and Limavady’s Stuart Thompson, with help from the Gloucestershire fielders and the wicket-keeper in particular, added 178 and the momentum was with the Irish.

Balbirnie was dropped by keeper Sam Bracey on 23 and Thompson, who stayed in Somerset for a second trial this week, was missed at point on 61 and by the gloveman on 90. He was caught down the leg side shortly afterwards but John Anderson, with a run-a-ball 39, and then Rory McCann stayed with Balbirnie to see Ireland to their sensational victory.

Scores: At Bath, Gloucestershire 2nd XI 494-5 dec (E Young 172 not out, C Purchase 156 not out, P Muchall 84) and 146-8 dec (E Young 46; A Coughlan 4-38).

Ireland A 230 (J Anderson 72, R McCann 54, J Shannon 34) and 414-5 (A Balbirnie 148 not out, S Thompson 93, C Dougherty 45, J Anderson 39, B Ackland 35, R McCann 21 not out; E Young 2-63).

Ireland A won by 5 wickets.

Belfast Telegraph