Ireland v Scotland, Intercontinental Cup, Belfast, 2nd day August 10, 2007

Honours even as O'Brien and Botha battle

Cricinfo staff at Stormont

Ireland 179 for 4 (N O'Brien 83*, Botha 57*) trail Scotland 314 (Blain 93, Smith 40, K O'Brien 4-38) by 135 runs

Craig Wright is mobbed by team-mates after taking an early wicket ©
Scotland's go-slow tactics on the first day gave way to some more adventurous batting today from both sides at Stormont. At the close, Ireland were 179 for 4 in reply to Scotland's 314.

Scotland resumed on 183 for 7 in front of fewer spectators than there were players. John Blain and Simon Smith pressed on with more intent than before, Blain rather more streakily at first, toying with attacking shots just out of the reach of close fielders.

Blain's fifty came up of 168 balls, but Ireland finally broke through when Greg Thompson's second ball of the day removed Smith leg-before for 40 - it was not the first lbw decision to have left a batsman feeling aggrieved.

Dewald Nel gave Blain admirable support, and that freed Blain to open his arms, his best shot being a driven six over extra-cover off Thompson, and Nel heaved the same bowler over midwicket in the over before lunch.

After the break the pair grew in confidence before Nel finally perished when he missed a straight one - but not before Eoin Morgan had dropped him off an easy chance at midwicket. Blain's patience looked set to be rewarded with a hundred when, two overs later, he top-edged a pull to deep midwicket for 93. The last four wickets had added 180 and, on a pitch spiced up by a light shower or two, those runs were vital.

Without Jeremy Bray, always odds-on to give any Ireland innings a flying start, the usually more circumspect William Porterfield appeared more attacking until he played back to a ball that swung back into him. Six balls later, Morgan got a thin edge to Smith off Craig Wright and in the next over Andrew White steered an attempted cut to first slip to leave Ireland on 40 for 3.

The O'Briens looked solid with a mixture of good singles and some beefy hitting, but the rain that had briefly delayed the resumption after tea returned and the umpires thought long and hard before deciding to play on. The next ball Kevin O'Brien fell to Wright.

Niall O'Brien and Andre Botha looked shaky at first, Botha surviving a vociferous appeal for a catch behind before he had got out of first gear and Kevin O'Brien spilt off a diving chance at fine leg.

Another short rain break appeared to rattle the bowlers more than the batsmen, Botha smashing three successive long hops from Ryan Watson for four.

As the evening session progressed the bowling and fielding grew sloppy and the batsmen grew more assured. By the close they had added 120 in under 30 overs and the game was back on an even keel.