Scotland grind even the diehards into submission
Scotland 183 for 7 (Johnston 3-27) v Ireland
The first day of the Intercontinental Cup tie between Ireland and Scotland at Stormont was not even one for the purists. Fewer than 50 people watched Scotland crawl to 183 for 7 off 101 painful overs. Few of them will be tempted back tomorrow.
In fairness to the Scots, who won the toss, the pitch was slow and low and made run-scoring an attritional affair, and Ireland's attack stuck to a solid line and length. Nevertheless, they never looked interested in upping the tempo or trying to dominate the bowlers. Survival was the key with the occasional run a bonus.
Scotland reached lunch at 50 for 2 off 30 overs, Neil McRae and Ryan Watson both falling for painstaking 9s, Watson caught at long leg when he top edged a rare attacking shot. Gavin Hamilton showed a glimmer of attacking intent before falling lbw to a woody sounding lbw, and suspicions of an edge were backed by the speed he left the middle.
In the next over Steven Knox, who had almost ground to a complete halt, finally fell for a 108-ball 17, undone by some extra bounce, and at 66 for 4 the innings then got even slower. The next nine overs yielded 12 runs before Scotland finally emerged from their shell, Neil McCallum puncturing the clam with three fours in two overs.
Dave Langford-Smith then spilt a return catch from Richard Berrington, who added to his misery by thumping the day's only six in his next over. For the first time in the day Ireland's control was slipping, but then Greg Thompson spun one across Berrington and Niall O'Brien held a thin edge.
Much depended on McCallum but he struggled to get going after tea and was eventually bowled round his legs trying to sweep Thompson and thereafter the batsmen showed little attacking intent. Craig Wright and John Blain, with time on their side, showed admirable application as they ground out ones and twos, managing only one four each in the last two hours.
In the penultimate over of the day Wright's defence finally failed him as his middle stump was sent flying, the ball somehow evading his defensive poke. The dozen or so who remained were then rewarded as Simon Smith smashed three fours in the last over to make a mockery of what had gone on before
Scotland's lack of aggression should not take away from Ireland's bowlers. Trent Johnston bowled very well with both new and old ball, his 3 for 27 coming off 21 overs. Thompson offered a few loose deliveries but was extracting considerable turn.
Both these sides have ambitions of going professional, something that requires them to attract lucrative TV deals. On today's evidence - until Smith's onslaught the evening session of 37 overs had produced a pitiful 46 runs - it was hard to imagine anyone wanting to tune in.