Belfast Telegraph

Kevin hits ground running as Irish enjoy gentle opener

By Ian Callender

Kevin O'Brien was named man of the match as Ireland enjoyed a winning start to 2017 when they defeated a local UAE side in a warm-up fixture ahead of the Desert T20 tournament in Dubai.

O'Brien hit 54 from 43 balls, with four fours and a six, as Ireland made 144 for seven and Boyd Rankin and Josh Little then each took a wicket with their first ball as the Bukhatir XI were bowled out for 58.

Ireland had hoped to give all 14 members of the squad a game before their tournament opener against Afghanistan, with two playing for the home side, but that didn't work out and Andy McBrine and George Dockrell were the two to miss out.

O'Brien, who will play his 275th international on Saturday, shared a third wicket stand of 66 with skipper William Porterfield, who gave up his opening batting slot to Stuart Thompson.

The Eglinton all-rounder, returning to the team for the first time in 11 months after his self-imposed exile, hit his first ball for four but added only two more singles before he was caught and bowled and Paul Stirling followed in the next over after hitting two fours and a six in his run-a-ball 18.

Gary Wilson (11) and Greg Thompson (4) failed to cash in but Andrew Balbirnie, batting at No.7 on his long-awaited return to the side, finished 10 not out.

Rankin proved too hostile for the opposition, taking two wickets in his first over, and 17-year-old Little did the same when he replaced the Warwickshire pace man in the sixth over to reduce the home side to 19 for five.

Opener Ramees Abdulkareem scored 26 of the 46 runs off the bat - the next top score was 6 not out by the No.10 - as Porterfield gave seven bowlers a run-out. Jacob Mulder conceded just six runs in his three overs and took a wicket with his last ball while Thompson, coming on as fourth change, took two wickets in his first over and his second was a maiden. It is sure to be tougher on Saturday.

Scores: Ireland 144-7 (20 overs, K O'Brien 54, W Porterfield 34). Bukhatir XI 58 (S Thompson 2-3, C Young 2-7, J Little 2-7, B Rankin 2-8. Ireland won by 86 runs.

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