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Cricket: Irish input makes it a close finish for England

England captain Andrew Strauss was delighted with England’s first warm-up game in Dubai, but with significant contributions from all four Ireland players in the ICC Associates XI, the No 1 Test team were made to fight all the way before completing a three wickets victory with just 40 minutes to spare.

In the end it proved to be an almost perfect opener for England, who have just one more game ahead of the first Test against Pakistan, starting next Tuesday, as only Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan failed to spend time in the middle and Steven Finn got valuable overs under his belt.

The captain top scored with 78 and Alistair Cook took his match tally to over 100.

Finn will now be back-up to opening bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad following yesterday’s news that Tim Bresnan is returning home because his injured elbow will not recover in time to play any part in the three-match series.

William Porterfield's generous declaration, 35 minutes before lunch, also helped England.

Set a target of 261 in 69 overs on a still blameless pitch, the tourists’ only hiccup came when they lost three wickets for 19 runs to leave them on 199 for six, but Steven Davies (37 not out) and Stuart Broad (31) stayed together to bring the scores level and Graeme Swann, nursing a tight left quad, came onto the field for the first time to hit the winning run.

Boyd Rankin, who heads off to Bangladesh today to join up with the England Lions squad, also did his chances of an England call-up no harm with another impressive bowling display.

He took the wicket of Morgan, caught down the leg side for three, to finish with one for 58 from 15 overs, and the 6ft 8ins bowler took a diving catch at mid-on to dismiss Pietersen off the bowling of George Dockrell.

Porterfield held a catch at short leg to end Jonathan Trott’s innings at 35, Paul Stirling took a blinder, ‘round the corner’ to send back Ian Bell for 39 and Dockrell’s catch at deep cover ended Broad’s innings as the Associates XI kept the pressure on to the end.

After the match Porterfield said: “It’s wasn’t easy getting together four days before a game but the lads gelled well and everyone was playing for each other.

“We gave the England lads a good fright.”

Belfast Telegraph