Andrew Balbirnie’s maiden hundred for Ireland led his team to a well-deserved four wicket win against a strong New Zealand A side at the ICC Global Cricket Academy in Dubai.
The Middlesex man was at his positive best, continuing his impressive form shown on the recent acclimatisation tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Balbirnie stroked 21 fours and two sixes in his innings of 129 from just 96 deliveries, having reached his landmark century from just 70 deliveries.
He shared a second wicket stand of 133 in just 103 balls with an almost equally impressive Niall O'Brien.
The Leicestershire keeper-batsman hit 68 from 67 balls (10 fours, 1 six), and was content to play second fiddle to Balbirnie, having dominated his opening stand of 33 with skipper William Porterfield (2).
Balbirnie's dismissal sparked a mini-collapse in the Irish ranks, as they lost three wickets for just two runs, going from 231 for 3 to 235 for 6 in their pursuit of 253 for victory.
Vice-captain Kevin O'Brien (22*) showed all his experience in tandem with Alex Cusack to guide Ireland over the finishing line for a morale boosting win.
Earlier, O'Brien (4-39) had been the star of the show with the ball for Ireland, as his four wicket haul saw New Zealand falter to 121 for 4, after Anton Devich (61) and Martin Guptill (41) had shared an opening stand of 101 in 19 overs.
Colin Munro (50), Nathan McCullum (38) and Hamish Rutherford (28) kept the New Zealand innings on track at 222 for 5, but a further late collapse saw the last five wickets add just 30 runs in the final six overs.
Craig Young (2-52) and John Mooney (2-58) both picked up two wickets apiece in a disciplined Irish bowling performance, which ensured their target was always withing reach.
The teams meet again in Dubai on Monday, in a day/night contrast which gets under way at 10am Irish time.
IRELAND TOUR OF THE UAE
At ICC Global Cricket Academy, Dubai
NEW ZEALAND ‘A’ 252 all out (49.1 overs, Anton Devcich 61, Colin Munro 50, Martin Guptill 41, Nathan McCullum 38, Hamish Rutherford 28, Kevin O'Brien 4-39, Craig Young 2-51, John Mooney 2-58).
IRELAND 253/6 (43.5 overs, Andrew Balbirnie 129, Niall O'Brien 68, Kevin O'Brien 22*, Nathan McCullum 2-26, Adam Milne 2-55)
Ireland beat New Zealand A by four wickets.