Friday 15 December 2017

Irish fate hinges on UAE clash

Cricket

Paul Stirling: out for 11
Paul Stirling: out for 11

David Townsend

Ireland must defeat the United Arab Emirates in Dubai today to reach the finals of the T20 Desert Challenge after beating Namibia by five wickets with two balls to spare in Abu Dhabi to end a sequence of six successive losses over the shortest distance.

As Louis van der Westhuizen smashed 50 from 25 balls and Namibia raced away to 81-0 in the ninth over, the prospect loomed of an embarrassingly early flight home but Ireland took 7-42 from the last eight overs to restrict the south-west Africans to 146-9.

Pembroke teenager Josh Little claimed his first wicket for the Boys in Green in the final over and followed it with a second to finish with 2-17, while Kevin O'Brien, Jacob Mulder and Craig Young also claimed two wickets apiece. Any thoughts that Ireland would ease to their target vanished as Paul Stirling was caught for 11 and William Porterfield - again batting at No 3 - skied to backward point to leave the chase on 25-2.

But Stuart Poynter hit a breezy 38 from 26 balls, adding 48 with O'Brien who saw his run-a-ball 22 ended by a stunning catch as Gerhard Erasmus hauled in what seemed a certain six.

Sensible batting by Gary Wilson kept the run-rate manageable, though, and when Greg Thompson was caught in the deep for 17, Andy McBrine ended the match in style with two boundaries in the final over.

"Our bowlers showed great character having gone for a few in the first 10 overs," said Wilson, who finished 38 not out. "The heads didn't drop, they stuck to it and got their deserved reward."

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