Niall O'Brien takes Ireland within sight of title
Ireland 195 and 134 for 1 (Niall O'Brien 77*) need 67 runs to beat Namibia 250 and 145 (Rankin 4-39, Connell 3-36)
Boyd Rankin led a terrific bowling performance that dismissed Namibia for 145, wiping out the disadvantage of a first-innings deficit, before an aggressive half-century from Niall O'Brien left his team poised for their third consecutive Intercontinental Cup title. At the end of the third day in Port Elizabeth, Ireland had reached 134 for 1, needing another 67 to win with loads of time and wickets in hand.
The match was in the balance at stumps on the second day: Ireland had conceded a first-innings lead of 55 but pulled Namibia back by reducing them to 14 for 2. Ireland grabbed the initiative early this morning when, after two maiden overs, Rankin induced an edge from Sarel Burger that was sharply held by William Porterfield at second slip.
Jan-Berrie Burger and Craig Williams tried to rebuild the innings but although they batted together for 16 overs runs were extremely hard to come by. They had added only 29 when Williams was caught at point off Andre Botha.
Botha picked up another crucial wicket, that of Gerrie Snyman who hit two massive sixes in his 31, to finish with figures of 2 for 28. Rankin returned to cap an excellent performance by bowling the opener Jan-Berrie and then dismissed Kola Burger for a duck to end the innings. Rankin ended with 4 for 39 and Ireland were left with 201 to chase.
Ireland had a poor start to their first-innings, losing both openers for 27, but Porterfield and Niall gave them an excellent start this time. They batted aggressively, scoring at over six an over at the start, and shared a stand of 68 for the first wicket. Porterfield started quickly, reaching 24 off 23 balls with six fours, before Niall joined in by pulling Kola over the midwicket boundary.
Niall kept going, even after Porterfield was caught at mid-on for 34, and forged another valuable partnership with Alex Cusack, Ireland's top-scorer from the first innings. Cusack played the holding role, scoring 19 off 68 balls, as Niall powered Ireland closer towards victory. He finished the day unbeaten on 77 and will hope to score a memorable eighth first-class century.