Johnston driving force for Ireland

Ireland stayed on course to reach the next phase of the Twenty20 World Cup qualifiers after another last gasp win, this time against hosts UAE.

Having beaten Canada by two runs in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, Ireland again squeezed home yesterday against the other unbeaten side from Group A.

Going into the final over of the day, the UAE required just nine runs with three wickets in hand so captain William Porterfield turned to veteran bowler Trent Johnston.

The 192-times capped Johnston proved just the man for the job as his accurate deliveries forced two batsmen to be run-out while he then clean-bowled UAE No 11 Manjula Guruge first ball to see Ireland home.

Earlier, Porterfield and Paul Stirling were straight on the attack against Guruge and Shadeep Silva, Stirling in particular targeting Guruge, who leaked 21 runs in his first two overs.

Silva’s second over turned out to be a real hammer blow for the Irish, however, Stirling bowled for 13 playing around one and then Niall O’Brien bowled for a duck as he missed with an attempted sweep.

Kevin O’Brien (47) joined his skipper in the middle but disaster struck for Ireland soon after when Porterfield (18) came up short trying to scramble a quick single. O’Brien was joined by Gary Wilson (53) as the batting side tried to consolidate and this pair went on to do a superb job, putting on 92 runs as Ireland finished on 138 for 5.

The reply started in a blaze of action as Muhammad Azam clubbed Tim Murtagh’s second ball for six and was then out seconds later trying to repeat the dose.

Shaiman Anwar and Khurram Khan picked up the mantle from there and this pair comfortably took the hosts ahead in the contest.

However, the introduction of Paul Stirling and Max Sorensen into the attack gave the Irish renewed hope, Sorensen finally breaking the 53-run partnership by removing the dangerous Khan for 35.

The 19th over saw the contest really swing — Amjed Javed clubbing Cusack for two big sixes before the bowler gained his revenge by tempting him out just enough for Gary Wilson to send him packing.

That set the stage for Johnston to send Ireland into Wednesday’s clash with the US still top of Group A.


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