Gary Wilson: I was confident I could rescue game for Ireland
Gary Wilson struck 80 runs from 69 balls in a defiant late innings to help Ireland edge the United Arab Emirates by two wickets Wednesday in a World Cup match that was finely balanced until the last over.
In the unfamiliar position of being the favorite in a World Cup match following its opening upset win over the West Indies, Ireland won the toss, sent the UAE in to bat and had them in trouble at 78-4 before Shaiman Anwar came to the rescue with his maiden ODI century to lift the total to 278-9.
The Irish never appeared comfortable in reply after losing Paul Stirling (3) in the second over, eventually sneaking to 279-8 with four balls to spare and after contributions from Wilson and Kevin O'Brien (50).
"I was confident going out there," Wilson said. "It was obviously closer than we wanted it to be, definitely ... (but) we're two from two, that's all we could ask."
In the time since its opening four-wicket win on Feb. 16 at Nelson, New Zealand, Ireland was idle while the two-time champion West Indies rebounded with big wins over Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Pool B.
The UAE was the last of the 14 teams to get its Cup campaign underway, losing by four wickets to Zimbabwe last week after getting themselves into a strong position to win. It was a similar plot for the UAE in Brisbane, where the group of part-timers and semi-professionals couldn't quite get across the line.
Anwar scored a national record 106 and shared a 107-run partnership with Amjad Javed, who hit 42 from 35 balls and later returned to take three wickets and a crucial catch.
William Porterfield (37) and Ed Joyce (37) put on 68 for the second wicket for Ireland, but had some luck along the way. Joyce got a massive reprieve when Javed beat him with a full in-swinging ball that grazed his off stump and the moved but didn't dislodge the bail. He was also dropped when he hit a sharp return chance to captain Mohammad Tauqir and was lucky not to be run out before he was eventually out edging behind off Javed for 37.
"Sometimes the bails come off, sometimes they don't," Javed said. "I've seen that, but never with me."
Porterfield was beaten by his counterpart, bowled while trying to slog sweep a ball from Tauqir to make the total 94-3.
The 43-year-old Tauqir then had Niall O'Brien (17) out lbw before Andy Ballbirnie and Wilson put on 74 to keep the run chase alive. O'Brien went to the crease at the fall of Ballbirnie's wicket and dominated a 72-run stand in six overs with Wilson, lifting the run-rate with a half century from 25 balls including eight boundaries and two giant, driven sixes before he was caught off Javed's bowling with the total at 243-6.
Javed said a dropped outfield catch let O'Brien off the hook, and was costly for UAE.
"We dropped a catch off Kevin when the run-rate was about 10 per over. That was a crucial time," he said. "If you're giving a chance to a Kevin O'Brien type player, he'll take the game away from you."
Wilson had a reprieve on an lbw decision before he fell in the 48th over to a brilliant catch from Javed, leaving George Dockrell (7) and Alex Cusack to score the 12 runs needed.
The UAE was aiming for its second win at a World Cup, and first since a seven-wicket win over the Netherlands at Lahore, Pakistan in 1996.
The UAE made a promising start with a 49-run opening stand between Amjad Ali (45) and Andri Berenger (13) before Stirling (2-27) took two wickets to slow it down.
Anwar, who led the scoring with 67 in UAE's opening loss to Zimbabwe, belted 106 from 83 balls, including 10 fours and a six until he was caught out in the 49th over.