Ireland v Pakistan, 2nd ODI, Belfast May 30, 2011

Pakistan edge past fighting Ireland

The Bulletin by Gerard Siggins

Pakistan 242 for 5 (Younis 64, Akmal 60) beat Ireland 238 for 8 (Stirling 109, Ajmal 4-35) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A brilliant, belligerent century by Paul Stirling wasn't enough to take Ireland to victory over Pakistan in the second ODI. A solid innings of 64 by Younis Khan ensured the visitors were not embarrassed and took the two match RSA Series in Belfast 2-0.

Stirling played an innings that alternated between control and raw aggression as he racked up his third ODI century, his first against a Full Member. It helped set Pakistan a target of 239, which they achieved with eight balls to spare, but not before their most experienced batsmen rescued them from a tricky situation as Ireland's celebrated fielders tightened the screws.

Stirling's innings showed great maturity for a man who has his critics in Irish cricket. He has too often been a player who raced to thrilling thirties and forites, but rarely went on. His previous highest score against a Full Member was just 52.

But an Irish record one-day score of 177 against Canada in September showed what could be achieved and he round off the recent World Cup with a blistering ton against Netherlands. That innings was the third-fastest century in the competition's history, behind only Kevin O'Brien and Matthew Hayden.

He thrashed three sixes and seven fours in his innings of 109, which backboned Ireland's total of 238 for eight.

On the pitch used for Saturday's rain affected game - and after a day of warm sun in between - William Porterfield opted to take first use.

Ireland persevered with their decision to promote Ed Joyce to open, although the Sussex batsman was rarely fluent as Junaid Khan and Umar Gul made use of the overcast conditions.

Stirling, meanwhile, played in his usual manner and was 38 when Ireland passed fifty. Misbah turned to the spin of Saeed Ajmal and Mohammed Hafeez to slow things down, and was immediately rewarded with the wicket of Joyce. Ajmal extracted some extra bounce and Joyce edged to Mohammed Salman with the total on 65.

Porterfield joined Stirling and was at the other end as he reached his fifty off 43 balls. The pair hoisted the hundred in the 22nd over when Stirling hoicked the ball over wide mid-on for six.

Pakistan preferred Hammad Azam to Tanvir Ahmed and the Rawalpindi bowler's gentle medium proved useful in the conditions. But it was Mohammed Hafeez who dismissed Porterfield, bowled for 15.

Stirling was watchful to the spinners and the rate slowed as Ajmal extracted turn on his way to 4 for 35. Stirling raced into the nineties with a sumptuous cover drive but took six more overs to reach 100, which he did with a straight drive past the bowler Azam. He passed the century mark in 94 balls.

Rain - which threatened several times - eventually forced the players off for 15 minutes, but no overs were lost.

Alex Cusack played a typical innings as second foil to a more aggressive batsman, and took the total to 174 before he fell charging Ajmal. He fell in the second over of the Powerplay, which Ireland struggled to exploit.

Stirling was dropped by Junaid who made an awful hash of a gentle hook to fine leg off Saeed. But Junaid made amends next ball when he bowled Stirling for 109. Gary Wilson came out to cheers in his 100th appearance for Ireland, but although he hit the last two balls of the Powerplay for four, the five-over period yielded a miserable 23 for 2.

Wilson hit a breezy 33 off 25 balls, but Ireland's total was probably 30-40 short of expectations as Pakistan prevented them accelerating at the death.

Mohammed Hafeez fell in the second over as he mistimed a drive off Trent Johnston, but ODI debutant Azhar Ali and Taufeeq Umar steadied the ship in the face of accurate bowling from Boyd Rankin. The big Warwickshire man extracted bounce and pace in his nine overs, claiming Azhar to a sharp slip catch.

At 80 for 3 Pakistan needed steady hands and were able to turn to Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq. The pair have played 300 ODIs between them - more than the whole Irish team - and were able to dictate the pace from there.

The partnership consolidated, scoring one boundary and 30 runs off the first ten overs, but as the clouds loomed they put in a mini-charge to ensure they went ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis calculation.

With the score on 148 John Mooney induced the thinnest of nicks off Misbah, who seemed reluctant to depart, but his wicket gave Ireland renewed hope. The feisty Umar Akmal came in and took the game by the scruff though, smashing three sixes in an innings of 60 off 48 balls.

All the while Younis Khan was accumulating while Ireland fought for every run. Porterfield at cover saved a dozen runs as Stirling, Joyce and Mooney ensured the ring was hard to pierce.

Having hit just two boundaries getting to 48, Younis dragged the ball into the crowd at midwicket to complete his fifty. He perished chipping to Kevin O'Brien off Cusack trying to hit the winning runs.

Stirling was named as Man of the Match, but it was Pakistan's day.

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