Pakistan edge past Ireland

Opener Paul Stirling’s century was not enough as Pakistan did just enough to beat Ireland by five wickets and claim a 2-0 one-day international series win in Belfast.

Opener Paul Stirling’s century was not enough as Pakistan did just enough to beat Ireland by five wickets and claim a 2-0 one-day international series win in Belfast.

Stirling hit an impressive 109 to lead a vastly-improved Irish batting display after they had been bowled out for just 96 in Saturday’s opener.

Ireland this time managed 238 for eight, a total that might have been bigger but for some clever bowling from Saeed Ajmal (four for 35) at the end which proved crucial as Pakistan made heavy work of the chase.

The tourists crawled past 100 in the 30th over but half-centuries from Younus Khan and Umar Akmal, who provided the much-needed late hitting, saw Pakistan across the line with eight balls to spare.

Defeat for Ireland meant they failed to claim a timely win over a full-member nation with their, and the associate nations’, World Cup hopes still up in the air.

The ICC chief executives’ committee is due to meet next month to discuss the possibility of over-ruling their omission from the 2015 tournament.

Today’s performance was, however, more reflective of the form that had led to widespread calls for Ireland to be given a route back into the World Cup, while 20-year-old Stirling’s impressive century – his first against a full-member nation – underlined the young talent emerging from the country.

It looked like his heroics with the bat might be rewarded with victory when Pakistan initially made pained progress in their chase after Mohammad Hafeez chipped Trent Johnston to mid-on before he had scored.

A circumspect 63-run stand between Kumar Taufeeq (31) and debutant Azhar Ali (39) then allowed the required rate to climb before they both fell in quick succession to put the pressure on the middle order.

Despite that, old hands Younus and Misbah-ul-Haq remained unfazed at the start of their 68-run stand as Pakistan crawled past 100 in the 30th over, before they finally upped the tempo.

Misbah launched Kevin O’Brien back over his head for six although his dismissal, caught behind off John Mooney for 32, kept Ireland alive.

At that stage there was plenty of work still to be done, with Pakistan needing 91 from the last 12 overs, but Younus and Akmal combined effectively.

Akmal provided the youthful aggression, hitting an unbeaten 60 off 47 balls, while Younus played the role of composed veteran adding 64 from 74 balls before he was out two runs from victory.

Ireland captain William Porterfield had earlier made the brave choice to bat first on the same Stormont wicket his unchanged team had disappointed so emphatically two days ago.

His decision was soon rewarded as Ireland surpassed their horror opening-game 96 for the loss of only Ed Joyce (17), who edged behind off Ajmal.

Stirling was quickly in his stride swiping both Junaid Khan and Umar Gul over the square boundary, but his innings was not all about aggression.

After his skipper Porterfield (15) was bowled by Hafeez, Stirling responsibly worked the ball around the field as he dug in for the big score his side needed.

It was mature batsmanship from one of Ireland’s most promising young players and he was rewarded for it with a century from 94 balls, which included seven fours and a six.

He was eventually bowled trying to thrash Junaid in the final over of the batting powerplay, before the clever Ajmal frustrated Ireland’s late hitting by removing the dangerous O’Brien (10) and Mooney (six).

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