CRICKET: Balbirnie propels Ireland to victory over Scots

MANDATORY CREDIT: Rowland White / PressEye'ICC Intercontinental Cup'Teams: Ireland v Netherlands'Venue: Malahide'Date: 16th August 2017'Caption: 200 celebration for Ireland's Andrew Balbirnie
MANDATORY CREDIT: Rowland White / PressEye'ICC Intercontinental Cup'Teams: Ireland v Netherlands'Venue: Malahide'Date: 16th August 2017'Caption: 200 celebration for Ireland's Andrew Balbirnie
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Andrew Balbirnie’s rapid half century propelled Ireland to a convincing six-wicket win over rivals Scotland with more than 15 overs to spare in their first ODI in Dubai.

Chasing 220 for victory the Irish lost skipper William Porterfield second ball, but Balbirnie dominated a second wicket stand of 104 from just 95 balls with Paul Stirling.

It’s not too often that Stirling is out-scored, but he contributed just three of the first 50 added as the in-form Balbirnie tore the Scottish attack apart.

The Dubliner hit 10 fours and cleared the ropes once as he top scored with 67 from 55 balls - his fifth ODI half century - to put the Irish firmly in control.

He was eventually stumped off the bowling of debutant Tom Sole - son of Scottish rugby legend David - and Stirling fell for 38 soon after.

There was to be little respite for the Scots however, as the experienced middle-order duo of Niall O’Brien and Ed Joyce took Ireland to the brink of victory with a fourth wicket partnership of 63 in just 65 balls.

O’Brien looked in scintillating touch, hitting five fours and two sixes in his 55 from 53 balls - his 16th ODI half century and 31st for Ireland in all formats.

Joyce finished unbeaten on 31, while Kevin O’Brien clubbed consecutive boundaries to seal victory.

Scotland’s innings of 219 was dominated by another debutant - opener Michael Jones top scoring with 87.

He shared partnerships of 51 and 62 with Calum MacLeod (33) and Craig Wallace (34) but couldn’t build any real momentum as the Irish bowling unit kept a tight grip.

Boyd Rankin (3-49) and Barry McCarthy (2-42) were the most successful, while there was a wicket apiece for Andy McBrine (1-33), George Dockrell (1-39) and Kevin O’Brien (1-52).

Pace bowler Rankin was pleased with the team performance in what was a thoroughly professional display.

“It was an excellent win and I thought we stuck to our task pretty well,” said Rankin.

“We took early wickets to put them under pressure and our spinners Andy McBrine and George Dockrell did really well and contained them in the middle overs.

“We were pretty pleased at the half-way point to have kept them to 219 on what we reckoned was a 300-par pitch.

“Despite losing Porty early we got off to a flying start and always looked comfortable. The guys batted really well, keeping it ticking over and were able to coast to what was a pretty comfortable win in the end.”

Ireland v Scotland, 1st ODI at Academy Oval

Scotland 219/10 (49.2 overs; M Jones 87, C Wallace 34, C MacLeod 33, T Sole 20; B Rankin 3-49, B McCarthy 2-42)

Ireland 223/4 (34.5 overs; A Balbirnie 67, N O’Brien 55, P Stirling 38, E Joyce 31*, S Sharif 2-44, T Sole 2-44).