Returning Rankin puts Ireland in the driving seat
Boyd Rankin bounced back into action for Ireland yesterday with two wickets that helped the Boys in Green stay on top of Papua New Guinea at the halfway stage of their InterContinental Cup clash in Townsville.
After a brief appearance with the bat as Ireland collapsed from 280-6 to a disappointing 289 all out before lunch, Rankin (pictured) showed the hostility and firepower that earned him an Ashes cap for England two years ago as PNG struggled to 166-7 in reply, despite an unbeaten century from Asad Vala.
Tim Murtagh, who claimed a trademark nick to the keeper with his fourth ball, took 3-30 at the other end and already the Middlesex man's guile and control looks the perfect foil to Rankin's pace and bounce in the most potent Irish new ball attack since Trent Johnston retired.
Craig Young, who plays for Rankin's former club Bready in Co Tyrone, also took two wickets as William Porterfield used his quick bowlers in short bursts to conserve energy in the sapping humidity of northern Queensland.
"It was hard work out there but the mood in the camp is good," said Rankin, who conceded a miserly 16 runs from as many overs.
"Vala played really well for his century but hopefully we can get the first-innings points and then bat well to get a big lead.
"The pitch is pretty good and the humidity is right up there with the worst I've ever experienced - in Mombasa four years ago. There's a bit there for the spinners and a few cracks are starting to appear so we're expecting it to be more up and down on the final day."
An outright victory, or a draw with first-innings points, would see Ireland leapfrog the Netherlands and lead the IC Cup table after three of the seven rounds.
The IC Cup winners will get the chance to qualify to play Test cricket from 2019.
Meanwhile, Ireland's youngsters lost their third U-19 World Cup match to finish bottom of qualifying Group D, despite another spirited performance against New Zealand in Dhaka. YMCA batsman Jack Tector made 56 in an Ireland total of 212 and Phoenix paceman Rory Anders claimed 4-32 before the Kiwis got home with four wickets and 7.5 overs to spare.