GARY WILSON kept his head with a composed 72 not out to steer Ireland to a five-wicket victory in Sharjah after 20 minutes of madness had threatened a major upset in the first of two World Cup qualifiers against the United Arab Emirates.
Everything was going to plan as Ireland produced a disciplined performance in the field to dismiss their hosts for 165 in 46.4 overs on a blameless, if slow, pitch.
The chase began briskly but Paul Stirling's skier to mid-off led to a clatter of wickets as the top order contrived ever more daft ways to get out.
William Porterfield bowled on the charge, Ed Joyce dragging on from very wide and Niall O'Brien sent back looking for an impossible run.
At 51-4 after 10.2 overs, Ireland required a couple of cool heads and found them in Wilson and Kevin O'Brien, who added 56 for the fifth wicket before the latter was caught behind for a subdued but necessary 18 from 43 balls.
Wilson sailed on to reach his 18th international half-century and secured the two points that extended Ireland's lead at the top of the World Cup qualifying table with his 10th boundary.
"Games like that aren't as glamorous as some of the others we've played but you don't get the chance to beat England in the World Cup unless you win here first," said John Mooney, who was unbeaten on 23 as Ireland won with 48 balls to spare.
Clontarf all-rounder Alex Cusack is a doubt for tomorrow's second game against the UAE after damaging a finger in the field.
The injury didn't stop Cusack returning Ireland's best figures of 3-21 from 10 overs, while there were also three wickets for Stirling's off spin and two in an over for George Dockrell.