Junaid Khan claimed the best figures of his young career as Pakistan’s seamers made full use of conducive conditions to bowl Ireland out for 96 in a rain-affected first one-day international at Belfast.
Junaid had only claimed three wickets in his five ODIs before today but ripped through a disappointing Irish top order to return four for 12.
Spinner Saeed Ajmal also chipped in with the last three wickets as he claimed three for six as a thoroughly disappointing Ireland innings lasted just 20 overs.
The Stormont wicket provided Pakistan’s seamers with plenty of assistance, although the home batsmen hardly helped their own cause as they surprisingly opted to play their shots in the conditions.
That strategy initially paid dividends when nuggety opener Paul Stirling thrashed 39 from 22 balls after play had been delayed by more than three hours due to the morning rain.
But after Stirling became Junaid’s first victim the wickets fell at regular intervals to leave the hosts vulnerably placed in a match reduced to 36 overs-a-side due to the weather.
It was no surprise when Pakistan opted to bowl first on a pitch that looked full of life, and they duly struck in the second over.
Ed Joyce feathered a drive to wicketkeeper Mohammad Salman off Tanvir Ahmed before Stirling sought to nullify the threat with his customary aggression.
It earned him 19 runs from Tanvir’s next over but his bullish approach, which was rewarded with seven fours and a six, was ended when he became Junaid’s first victim.
Stirling skied a shot over cover where Mohammad Hafeez made plenty of ground to take a good diving catch.
It prompted a top-order collapse as Pakistan’s seamers, Junaid most significantly, revelled in the conditions.
The 21-year-old left-armer next skittled Alex Cusack’s stumps for five while Umar Gul found skipper William Porterfield’s edge.
Kevin O’Brien, Ireland’s star man at the World Cup, showed signs he was intent on following Stirling’s lead with a couple of powerful strikes but his stumps were also sent cart-wheeling by Junaid before he found full flow.
Khan then tempted Andrew White into an edge behind as the hosts found themselves in deep trouble at 66 for six before the rain arrived again.
That offered the hosts a 20-minute reprieve, but with their top order having already succumbed in the hour beforehand, the wickets continued to fall as they were disappointingly bundled out with 16 overs to spare.