Ireland face tough chase

Ireland face tough chase

Ireland will chase a victory target of 276 as they bid to beat a full-member nation for the first time in Dublin in the opening RSA Insurance one-day international against Pakistan.

Mohammad Hafeez’s unbeaten century ensured the tourists defied four rain delays to post a testing target in a match reduced to 47 overs by the weather.

Hafeez struck 122 from 113 balls and combined in a 188-run stand with Asad Shafiq, whose 84 was his best return in an ODI.

Late hitting from Kamran Akmal, who spent two seasons in Irish domestic cricket a decade ago, helped Pakistan reach 266 for five – a total improved to 275 on the Duckworth-Lewis Method because of the rain.

Kevin O’Brien’s two for 43 was the best of the Irish figures, although the all-rounder went at 8.60 an over after allowing Hafeez and Shafiq to up the tempo after the tourists had begun at a crawl.

Ireland new-ball pair Trent Johnston and Tim Murtagh allowed just a single boundary in a miserly opening 10 overs that cost 27 runs.

When Pakistan opener Nasir Jamshed did open his shoulders, pulling Johnston over the Clontarf Pavilion, he was forced off soon after with a back problem.

Fellow opener Imran Farhat had shunned any thought of risk in reaching nine from 34 balls before his first flourish, a slash at a wide Alex Cusack delivery, ended in the hands of Paul Stirling at first slip.

Two early rain breaks hardly helped Pakistan’s flow and at 33 for one after 13 overs Ireland had reason to be cheered despite the weather, which at one stage brought hail.

But the mood of the home side began to mirror the grey Dublin skies thereafter as Hafeez and Shafiq took control with a 188-run stand from 179 balls.

The pair initially targeted Ireland’s second-stringers, with Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling’s combined 10 overs costing 74 to break the early shackles.

Hafeez and Shafiq had to work around two more rain delays before reaching their 100 stand, from 122 balls, and when Jonhston and Cusack returned for the reduced four-over powerplay they still added 38 runs.

Shafiq looked set for his maiden ODI century, after passing his previous best of 78, only to miscue a lofted drive off Cusack to Johnston.

Hafeez did bring up three figures in the next over, his fifth ODI century, when he pushed his 102nd ball to deep mid-wicket for two.

The right-hander’s only blemish was to run out his skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, who had not faced a ball, after Jamshed had quickly returned and departed by chipping Kevin O’Brien to a diving Murtagh in the deep.

Hafeez was in full flow by now though and he lifted Johnston over the pavilion for a second time in the penultimate over which cost 16 runs.

Kevin O’Brien arrowed a full ball into Akmal’s stumps in the final over, but not before the wicketkeeper found the boundary three times in his six balls to leave Ireland with a tough chase.

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