IRELAND had spinners Albert van der Merwe and George Dockrell to thank after they beat Kenya by just 10 runs in an extraordinary Intercontinental Cup match in Mombassa yesterday.
The four-day match in the end barely lasted two, with Ireland somehow managing to win despite being bowled out for 75 and 152.
Ireland had actually started the second day in a solid position, but they were undermined again by a remarkable batting collapse. Resuming on 81 for two, they progressed serenely to 142 for four before losing their last six wickets for 10 runs in a barely believable spell of cricket.
To be fair, they were handicapped by illness to Ed Joyce, with the overnight not out batsman unable to come to the crease first thing because of a stomach upset. Alex Cusack and Andrew White managed 22 and 26 respectively but Ireland again had no answer to left-arm spinner Hiren Varaiya who took six for 51 to follow up on his first innings heroics.
Ireland were left with a meagre 119 to defend but they seemed to be crusing to victory as van der Merwe and Dockrell once more cast a spell on the Kenyan batsmen.
Amazingly, Kenya seemed out of the contest as they slumped to 36 for eight, with the two spinners again taking every wicket.
However, in an unexpected twist the Kenyan ninth wicket pair of Nel Odhiambo and Varaiya combined in a defiant stand of 58 which appeared to be taking the home side towards victory.
After being frustrated for a wicketless 30-over spell, Ireland at last broke the partnerhsip with van der Merwe dismissing Odhaiambo for 32 courtesy of a William Porterfield catch.
The nerves didn’t end there though as a last-wicket stand of 14 edged Kenya closer to the target before Varaiya was caught by Andrew White for 27, leaving the Kenyans 109 all out. Van der Merwe’s six-wicket haul in the second innings earned him match figures of 11 for 68 and the match of the match award.
Ireland are top of the Intercontinental Cup table with 54 points from three matches. However, they will want to improve their batting significantly in time for the two ODIs between the countries later in the week.
Ireland (75 and 152) beat Kenya (109 and 108) by 10 runs.