A knock of 111 in 133 balls by captain William Porterfield gave Ireland’s cricketers a narrow four-wicket win over Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the World Cup qualifiers in Harare, Zimbabwe today.
Ireland chased down the PNG total of 235 all out with just five balls to spare to make it two wins out of two in the group, having disposed of the Netherlands in their opening game, and set up a crunch match against Group A favourites the West Indies on Saturday.
Ireland won the toss and Porterfield put PNG into bat. Ireland made one change to their line up, spin bowler Andy McBrine preferred to the pace of Barry McCarthy.
Ireland immediately had PNG in trouble, as they fell to 80 for 6 by the 25th over, with McBrine getting the prize wicket of captain Assad Vala for just 8 in the 7th over.
There was some stubborn resistance however from opener Tony Ura, who frustrated the Irish attack. He made a stunning 151 off 141 balls as PNG closed on 235 all out. Wicket keeper Niall O’Brien took three catches and was involved in one run out.
In reply, Ireland's openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling put on 52 for the first wicket before Stirling frustratingly holed out after a breezy 27 off 21 deliveries. He was quickly followed by Andy Balbirne, bowled by Chad Soper for seven.
Porterfield made his half century, passing 3,500 one-day-international runs in the process and he and Ed Joyce, who made 52, put together a 102 run partnership in 21 overs to lay a platform for the men in green.
Niall O’Brien, who made 49 against the Netherlands, was out for one, quickly following Joyce back to the pavilion.
Porterfield was joined by Kevin O’Brien, who had luck on his side as he was dropped twice early in his innings, and the captain went on past the ton, making 111 before he was caught in the 44th over with Ireland in sight of victory.
O’Brien eventually went for 12, but George Dockrell (8 not out) and Gary Wilson (12) took Ireland over the line with just five balls remaining as Wilson hit the winning runs.
"It was a little a bit closer than we expected, but there's always that pressure on when playing against a lesser ranked side - there's always pressure on to beat them comfortably," said Ireland Assistant Head Coach Rob Cassell afterwards.
"PNG have come a long way in the last 12 months, so we're happy to get over the line."
"Winning form is good form and we started well with the ball. It was a fantastic knock from Ura, who made 150 for PNG. It was a bit of a lone hand, and gave us some things to work on with the ball - otherwise it was a good performance."
"West Indies are up next. Our boys are playing good cricket at the moment and confidence is high, so we're looking at taking the Windies head on."
In the day's other game in Group A, the West Indies began their quest to make the finals in England next year with a 60-run defeat of the UAE.
The dangerous Chris Gayle smashed 123 from 91 balls to take the Windies to a huge 357 for four in their 50 overs, with the UAE scoring 297 for 6 off their 50 overs in reply
The Windies now play Ireland in the crunch match in the group on Saturday. The winner will guarantee qualification for the ‘Super Six’ stage of the competition and will also take the points won in that game through to the next stage.