TIM Murtagh produced his best spell in Irish colours to help his country finish their tour of the United Arab Emirates on a high, with a six wicket win over their hosts in a Twenty20 fixture.
Ireland rested Alex Cusack, Ed Joyce and Trent Johnston, but the trio weren’t missed thanks to an opening salvo from Middlesex seamer Murtagh, which saw him claim the excellent analysis of three for 11 in his four over spell.
Paul Stirling (2-16) and George Dockrell (2-34) both captured two wickets on a pitch which offered considerable assistance to the bowlers.
Swapnil Patil top scored once again for the UAE with 41 from 32 balls, but their final total of 122-9 appeared at the innings break to be below par.
Irish skipper William Porterfield dominated an opening stand of 54 in 41 balls with Paul Stirling (9) to put the Irish firmly in control.
Porterfield’s golden start to 2013 continued as he top scored with 58, hitting four fours and three sixes from just 40 deliveries - in the process passing the 5,000 runs landmark for Ireland. At just 28 years of age, there are certain to be more records in store for the captain.
James Shannon (12) struck two boundaries before being bowled by Rohan Mustafa, and shortly afterwards Porterfield was run out following a mix-up with Niall O’Brien.
Gary Wilson enhanced his reputation as the side’s ‘finisher’ as he calmed the nerves with an unbeaten 35 from 27 balls (two fours, two sixes). The Surrey man found the boundaries at crucial times just when it appeared that the Emiratis were sensing an upset.
Wilson finished the game with consecutive boundaries as Ireland sealed the six wickets win with seven balls remaining.
“It’s important when you have an opportunity that you show the selectors and the coaching staff just what you’re capable of,” said Murtagh.
“You obviously want to be involved in every game, but this is a very talented squad with a lot of depth.
“It was pleasing to bowl so well today and help set up the win for the team. It’s been a fantastic tour for the squad and it was great to finish it on a high note tonight.
“The guys have had great success over the last 10 years. The standard seems to have gone up and up and the progress that Irish cricket has made over that period has been just incredible. Their profile is rising all the time and it is an exciting time to be involved.”
It’s a year since Murtagh joined the Irish ranks, and he’s relishing the chance to feature on the world stage: “I’ve been to Sri Lanka with Ireland and hopefully there will be a World Cup in Australia in 2015 and also another Twenty20 finals in Bangladesh next year.”
Ireland will be back in the UAE in November for the T20 World Cup qualifiers, and also hopefully for the final of the ICC InterContinental Cup.
Ireland’s next competitive action is in May when they play two one-day internationals against Pakistan in Clontarf.
At Sharjah Cricket Stadium
UAE 122-9 (20 overs, Swapnil Patil 41, Tim Murtagh 3-11, Paul Stirling 2-16, George Dockrell 2-34) lost to IRELAND 125-4 (18.5 overs, William Porterfield 58, Gary Wilson 35*) by six wickets