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World Cup: Dockrell hits winning runs in tense Ireland victory

Dockers Ireland PoseSomerset’s George Dockrell starred as Ireland defeated UAE by two wickets in a riveting World Cup group B match this morning.

Coming in with his side needing 12 from 15 balls, Dockrell was dropped second ball, then, next ball he faced, he smashed Amjad Javed over extra cover for four. Needing three from the final over, partner Alex Cusack was nearly run out going for a single to mid-off, before Dockrell finished the job with a high, mistimed cut in the air for two. The Somerset spinner finished on 7 not out from 5 balls as Ireland won with four balls to spare. It was, without doubt, the closest game of the tournament so far.

Earlier, UAE, inserted by Ireland skipper Will Porterfield, got off to a solid if slow start. On a dry, flat pitch, openers Amjad Ali and Andri Berenger took few risks against some admittedly ordinary bowling, reaching 44 for no loss at the end of the mandatory powerplay. But part-time offspinner Paul Stirling, brought on ahead of Dockrell, got rid of Berenger and new batsman Krishna Chandran (also known as ‘Karate’ – Kevin O’Brien celebrated taking the catch that got rid of him with a Karate Kid pose!) in his first three overs.

Stirling bowled his ten overs unbroken, and UAE struggled against tight bowling from him and medium pacers Cusack and Kevin O’Brien at the other end. Ali, having reached 29 off 31, plodded to 45 off 71 when he was dismissed by O’Brien, pulling to Max Sorensen at deep square leg.

When Dockrell was finally introduced, in the 30th over, Stirling had bowled out and UAE were struggling on 109 for 4. In his second over he piled more pressure on the UAE batsmen when he dismissed dangerman Khurram Khan for 36. His third over went for just two, but UAE’s number six Shaiman Anwar was just getting his eye in. He took the attack to the Irish bowlers, and Dockrell didn’t escape punishment. Anwar, playing shots all around the wicket, punished most balls that the spinner dropped too short, and came down the track on occasion too. George’s final figures were 7-0-39-1 – decent but perhaps they would have been better had he been brought on earlier, and consequently not bowled to Anwar.

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Anwar was finally dismissed for a scintillating 106 by Sorensen, looping it high in the air to give Surrey ‘keeper Gary Wilson a simple catch. He had support from Amjad Javed, who hit five fours in his 42 as UAE finished with a credible 278 for 9. Their total was helped by more average Ireland death bowling – they let West Indies recover from 87 for 5 in their first game, and it remains an issue for them going forward.

Stirling was dismissed early in the Irish reply, before a curious incident where Ed Joyce was beaten by a quicker delivery from Javed (the pick of the UAE bowlers with 3 crucial wickets), which hit the stumps, to UAE’s general excitement. But Joyce stood his ground, for the bails had not fallen off – they had lit up, indicating a collision, but they had merely jumped up slightly before returning to their groove. Joyce couldn’t make the most of his luck, however – the same bowler dismissed him later for 37.

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This was the spark that heralded true UAE excitement – Porterfield and Niall O’Brien were soon dismissed in quick succession, and Ireland were in trouble at 97 for 4, requiring 182 from 148 balls. Gary Wilson and Middlesex’s Andrew Balbirnie set about the task admirably, adding 74 together before Naveed had the latter caught by sub Saqlain Haider for 30, bringing Kevin O’Brien to the crease.

The required run rate was nearing ten an over by the time O’Brien got going. He clubbed successive fours off Naveed, and did the same in the next over to Chandran. Next over, he was afforded some luck as he was dropped by sub Nasir Aziz on the straight boundary. With O’Brien’s batting reminiscent of his century against England four years ago, Ireland looked to have the game in the bag. But, anti-climactically, he was caught by Naveed off a Javed slower ball for a two-runs-a-ball 50. He and Wilson had added 72 from 36 balls together, and the latter looked to continue O’Brien’s good work, bringing the requirement down to 12 off 15 balls. His dismissal, for 80, paved the way for Dockrell and Cusack’s late heroics which secured a memorable Ireland victory.

Ireland have now won two from two at the World Cup, but they face a tough test next Tuesday when they face South Africa at Canberra’s Manuka Oval. UAE, meanwhile, have a mountain to climb if they are to progress to the quarter finals. They have now lost their two most winnable games, and it only gets tougher for them now – next they face India on Saturday.

  • Dockrell was also a key man for Ireland in Ireland’s opening game against the West Indies in Nelson last Monday (16 February), writes Jeremy Blackmore

The spinner showed great control as he removed three top-order West Indian batsmen to set up a famous four-wicket victory for Ireland.

Dockrell got little assistance from the pitch, but bowled extremely accurately which, allied with some extremely sharp Irish fielding in the circle, kept the pressure firmly on the opposition batsmen for the first half of their innings.

The West Indies had moved onto 78-2 in the 22nd over when Dockrell struck twice in the space of three deliveries. First he removed danger man Chris Gayle, caught by Kevin O’Brien for 36 and then trapped Marlon Samuels lbw for 21.

In his next over, Dockrell picked up Denesh Ramdin lbw for 1 and the West Indies were reeling at 87-5 before a brilliant 154-run partnership for the sixth wicket from Lendl Simmons and Darren Sammy helped their side recover and post an imposing score of 304-7.

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Dockrell, whose figures took a bit of a dent when he was brought back to bowl his final two overs in the mandatory batting powerplay, still finished with 3-50 from his 10 overs. He also took two excellent catches towards the end of the innings, including a superb diving effort to remove Simmons for 102.