Stirling sparkles but Tikolo strikes back
Ireland 323 for 7 (Stirling 100, Bray 89, Cusack 63, Tikolo 5-67) v Kenya
Steve Tikolo led a Kenya fightback on the opening day against Ireland after Paul Stirling's maiden first-class hundred, and an opening stand of 128 with Jeremy Bray, put the defending champions in control at Eglinton. Ireland reached 275 for 2 before losing five for 47 against Tikolo's offspin and they closed on a less commanding 323 for 7.
Play was delayed after overnight rain, but after deciding to bat Ireland's openers took charge early as they dominated against Kenya's seam attack. Bray, who had a disappointing ICC World Twenty20, was back to his attacking best with 14 boundaries in his 121-ball 89 as he controlled the opening stand.
However, when he fell to Nehemiah Odhiambo, Stirling took over the innings with a fine display and added 101 for the second wicket with Alex Cusack. At 18, Stirling is one of the bright hopes for the future of Irish cricket and showed why he has impressed early in his career. He hit 13 boundaries and a six on the way to celebrating his first hundred, but fell shortly afterwards when he edged to the wicketkeeper.
It didn't appear a major setback for Ireland as Cusack settled into his innings alongside Andre Botha, but Tikolo - the sixth bowler used - then changed the complexion of the scorecard. He had Botha caught by Seren Waters and two balls later took a return chance off Kevin O'Brien. The scoring rate seized up and six overs brought eight runs before Andrew White become Tikolo's third.
The home side looked to be steadying themselves to the close as Cusack and Gary Wilson added 30. However, Tikolo wasn't finished and removed both before the end of the day with Cusack prodding a catch to short leg in the final over to leave the visitors in much better heart than had appeared likely.