Ireland’s seam bowling quintet led them to a 34 run victory against the UAE in the first T20 International at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Kevin O’Brien led the way with 3 for 14 as Ireland successfully defended 134.
Having been put in to bat by the hosts, Ireland’s top order struggled with William Porterfield (8), Paul Stirling (2), Stuart Poynter (1) and Gary Wilson (0) all going cheaply to leave them reeling on 19 for 4.
The O’Brien brothers came to the rescue with a vital fifth wicket stand of 55 in 48 balls. Niall top scored with a fluent 38 off 29 balls (2 fours, 1 six), while Kevin was more circumspect in his 23, also from 29 deliveries.
When they and Andy McBrine (1) fell in quick succession, Ireland were once again staring down the barrel at 90 for 7.
However the depth of the Irish batting proved their saviour as Max Sorensen (26), Boyd Rankin (16*), and Tim Murtagh (12*) all cleared the ropes as 44 runs were added in the final four overs - Ireland finishing on 134 for 8.
Twenty of those came from the last over, spoiling the bowling analysis of Emirati skipper Amjad Javed (3-41). A leg injury meant Qadeer Ahmed couldn’t finish his spell, having taken 1 for 2 in the three overs he did manage.
Buoyed by their success with the bat, the Irish seamers continued that momentum in the UAE innings, with Tim Murtagh, Craig Young and Boyd Rankin (2-16) all taking early wickets to reduce their opponents to 30 for 4.
Kevin O’Brien’s fine recent form with the ball continued as he claimed 3 for 14 - including the vital wicket of top scorer Shaiman Anwar (24). Anwar had scored a century during the team’s World Cup encounter at the Gabba, and with him went their last realistic chance of victory.
Murtagh (2-20), Young (2-26) and Sorensen (1-23) wrapped up the innings with UAE making exactly 100.
Kevin O’Brien backed the top order to come good in spite of their recent lack of runs. “I’m not worrying at the moment about the top order collapses. We just need to assess pitch conditions and perhaps play accordingly.
“But we are looking to be positive when batting, so we can’t go into our shells. We need to continue to back ourselves and play with no fear.”
O’Brien admitted he was happy to play second fiddle to elder brother Niall during their crucial 5th wicket stand.
“It was important for us to consolidate a little after the early wickets but it helped that Niall was batting really well and striking the ball nicely, When your partner is batting like that, it’s best to give him as much strike as I could. He played a great knock.”
Ireland’s late surge in the batting gave the side crucial momentum with O’Brien revealing he thought Ireland’s total was below par despite the late surge.
“It was great to add 40 in those last four overs - it just shows what you can do in the last few overs, regardless who is at the crease. Ten an over is what we are looking for in that time period so we are happy with that. I think 134 was a little below par, maybe 145 was more like it.
“The pitch itself was sticky and two-paced, so the ball wasn’t coming onto the bat. So when you hit back of a length it was hard to get away. There has been no spin in either game, so it was up to the five seamers to do the job, and thankfully we all did.”
The teams meet again on Tuesday at the same venue in the second and final match of the series (09:30 UK/Ireland).
UAE V IRELAND T20I,
At Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
IRELAND 134/8 (20 overs, N O’Brien 38, M Sorensen 26, K O’Brien 23, Amjad Javed 3-41)
UAE 100 all out (19.2 overs, Shaiman Anwar 24, K O’Brien 3-14, B Rankin 2-16, T Murtagh 2-20, C Young 2-26, M Sorensen 1-23)
Ireland beat UAE by 34 runs and lead the two-match series 1-0.