Namibia win keeps Ireland on course for Test debut in 2018

Ireland’s quest to become a Test-playing cricket nation by 2018 remains on course following an innings and 107-runs Intercontinental Cup victory over Namibia in Windhoek.
Namibia win keeps Ireland on course for Test debut in 2018

Ed Joyce hit a superb 205, his second double century in successive Intercontinental Cup matches following his Ireland all-time record score of 231 against the United Arab Emirates in June, before seamer Tim Murtagh and spin pair George Dockrell and Paul Stirling helped wrap up the victory on the final morning of the four-day match.

Namibia, many of whose players have experience in the highly-competitive South African domestic league, were expected to provide a tough test for Ireland under the African sun.

But they were blown away by William Porterfield’s team, with the Ireland skipper leading from the front as he hit 186. the highest first-class score of his nine-year international career.

Ireland now sit top of the Intercontinental Cup standings, with the maximum 40 points from their opening two matches of the campaign.

Under the ICC’s new’ Test Challenge’, the winner of the 2015-17 I-Cup tournament will then play off against the lowest-ranked full member team, currently Zimbabwe, in 2018.

Should John Bracewell’s side go on to win Test status in three years’ time, it will complete a remarkable journey for Irish cricket that arguably began with their first major tournament success at the same venue in 2005.

The 2005 I-Cup final at the Windhoek Country Club has gone down in Irish cricketing folklore for the part the journalist David Townsend played in Ireland’s victory over Kenya.

Townsend persuaded captain Trent Johnston to take the highly-unusual step of declaring his side’s first innings with a substantial deficit.

Townsend had realised that Kenya could pick up enough bonus points to win the I-Cup by drawing the match if they bowled Ireland out in the first innings, and sought to convince Johnston to gamble to try to force an unlikely victory.

Johnston, now the innovative head coach of New South Wales in his native Australia, acted on Townsend’s advice and Kenya went on to suffer a catastrophic batting collapse in the second innings as Ireland, a team then made up mostly of amateur and club cricketers, secured their first major trophy.

Ten years on, Irish cricket is a professional outfit, with a backroom staff that includes an analyst to provide the technical and statistical data that Townsend once provided for free over a late-night pint.

Townsend was in the press tent again in Windhoek this week, but neither he nor the analyst were called upon for any out-of-the-box thinking this time as Ireland dominated a one-sided match from the opening overs of the first morning.

Namibia were bowled out for 251 in their first innings, then Joyce and Porterfield took apart the Africans’ bowling attack in Ireland’s reply with a second-wicket stand of 326.

Porterfield declared the first innings at 570-6, a 319-run lead, and Stirling (2-27) and Dockrell (3-55) then showed skill and patience to secure the innings victory after Tim Murtagh (4-18) had made the initial breakthrough.

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