Porterfield helps Irish survive qualifier scare
William Porterfield struck his seventeenth international century at the Harare Sports Club yesterday as Ireland completed a second victory in Group A of the World Cup qualifiers, beating Papua New Guinea by four wickets with five balls to spare.
The Boys in Green were not at their sharpest either in the field or with the bat against a side they were expected to beat easily and having reduced the Islanders to 116-7 found themselves chasing a bloated 236 to win after a superb 151 from opener Tony Ura.
Porterfield (pictured right) controlled the chase, making 111 from 133 balls with 12 boundaries, while Ed Joyce stroked the ball around for 53 in a third-wicket partnership of 108 with his skipper, before a late flurry of wickets led to one or two nerves in the stands, if not in the dressing room.
"Joycey and I set it up pretty well, but it would have been nice for one of us to see it through," captain Porterfield said.
"If one of us had it would have been more comfortable but after a few hiccups, to win the game in that situation can only help us further down the tournament.
"We played PNG in Townsville a couple of years ago and knew how disciplined they were and how they stuck to their plans and how they keep going. There was some unbelievable fielding out there and if they hadn't done that the game would have been over five overs earlier.
"As it was we lost a couple of wickets before George (Dockrell) and Gary (Wilson) saw us home. It would have been nice to finish it earlier but it's two more points."
The victory sent Ireland top of Group A with four points from two matches, a start mirrored by Scotland who trounced Hong Kong to sit on top of Group B, ahead of Zimbabwe on nett run-rate.
Coach Graham Ford made one change from the team that beat the Netherlands by 93 runs, replacing seam bowler Barry McCarthy with the spin of Andy McBrine and the switch paid early dividends when Niall O'Brien scampered from behind the stumps to hold a bat/pad chance.
McBrine, bowling mostly around the wicket on a pitch offering a bit of help, claimed two further wickets to record career-best ODI figures of 3-38 while his fellow north-wester Boyd Rankin again bowled with good aggression and deserved better than 2-41.
Off-spinner Paul Stirling tried to bowl leg spin to the right-handers but only succeeded in sending down a succession of full tosses and long hops and on the tenth anniversary of his international debut the 27-year-old fared little better with the bat, caught at deep square for 27.
Andy Balbirnie failed to back up his excellent 68 against the Dutch when he was yorked for 7 but Porterfield was not to be denied as he punished anything short with vicious pulls to keep ahead of the required rate, an advantage that gave Wilson and Dockrell a cushion at the death.
Ireland now have three days off before meeting the West Indies on Saturday - a match that has taken on added significance after Afghanistan lost again yesterday, to hosts Zimbabwe by two runs, a defeat that leaves the pre-tournament favourites facing early elimination.