<
>

Murtagh's four-for gives Ireland top spot

Ireland 316 (Wilson 95, Porterfield 88, Afzal 4-63) and 230 (Anderson 59, Afzal 3-53) beat Hong Kong 237 (Rath 73*, Nizakat 69, Dockrell 3-46) and 239 (Nizakat 123, Murtagh 4-29) by 70 runs
Scorecard

Ireland climbed to the top spot on the Intercontinental Cup table with a 70-run win over Hong Kong in Belfast on Friday.

Having taken a 79-run first-innings lead, Ireland put up 230 in their second innings to leave Hong Kong with a target of 310 to win. They began day four on 199 for 6, but managed to add only 31 as left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed polished off the tail. Fast bowler Tim Murtagh then picked up 4 for 29 as Hong Kong were bowled out for 239.

Nearly half of Hong Kong's 239 came from Nizakat Khan, who was the last man dismissed for 123. The significance of his contribution to Hong Kong's score was underlined by the fact that no other batsman in the line-up crossed an individual score of 30. The 24-year-old batsman's maiden first-class century in his third match included 14 fours and a six.

"I need to give credit to Mark Wright who has helped me with my batting and to Cambo (Ryan Campbell) and Cooky (Simon Cook)," Nizakat said after the match.

"It felt really good to make a hundred - when I came here I just wanted to score a hundred and it was an amazing feeling - it wasn't easy but I just fought to the end. I'm happy with myself but I know I still have a lot of improvement to make."

Left-arm spinner George Dockrell added to his first-innings haul of three wickets with two more in the second, including Hong Kong captain Babar Hayat for 28, while Kevin O'Brien also picked up two wickets.

Nizakat had also contributed a 69 in the first innings, one of two half-centuries as Hong Kong mustered 237 in response to Ireland's first innings score of 316. In that innings, he shared a 101-run stand for the third wicket with Ninad Shah to help Hong Kong rebuild slightly after stumbling to 3 for 2 in the 10th over. The second fifty of that innings came from Anshuman Rath, who top-scored with 73* off 163 balls.

Ireland's first innings total, after they had opted to bat, was built around William Porterfield's 88 and Gary Wilson's 95. Ed Joyce and George Dockrell also got starts - the latter striking 32 lower down the order - but Porterfield and Wilson steered the middle and lower orders respectively, sharing in crucial partnerships. The best stand for Ireland was the one between Wilson and Dockrell for the seventh wicket which yielded 65 runs.

Tanwir Afzal and Nadeem were the most successful Hong Kong bowlers, each taking a four-for in Ireland's first innings and backing it up with three-wicket hauls in the second.

The full 20 points for Ireland took them to the maximum 80 points after four rounds, 19 ahead of Afghanistan who now sit in second place. Hong Kong meanwhile remain tied for fourth with Scotland in the Intercontinental Cup table at 30 points, 16 behind third-placed Netherlands.