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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Ireland stay in hunt for World Cup 2019 with Scotland triumph

Viuctory by 25 runs opens up the qualification from the Super Six group going into the final week.

Andrew Balbirnie. ICC
Andrew Balbirnie. ICC

Ireland kept alive their hopes of playing at the World Cup in England next year after handing a first defeat of the Qualifier to Scotland in Zimbabwe.

Andrew Balbirnie scored a hundred and Boyd Rankin took four wickets to take the Irish to a 25-run win at Harare Sports Club.

Ireland have created some of the most memorable events at the past three World Cups – most notably in beating Pakistan in 2007, England in 2011 and West Indies in 2015.

They would have been certain to miss the next edition, though, had they not beaten the in-form Scotland.

Their prolific opener Paul Stirling, who made a quick-fire century against UAE in the group stage last week, fell for a duck in the first over.

Balbirnie escaped a perilously close lbw appeal two overs later. He made the most of his reprieve, as he went on to make 105.

With valuable contributions from the O’Brien brothers Niall, who made 70, and Kevin, who hit 46 from 27 balls, Ireland were able to post 271 for nine from their 50 overs.

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Kyle Coetzer set the Scottish chase off to a fine start, but once the captain was out for 61, their effort faltered.

“It certainly was not a highlights package, I had to get the nitty-gritty stuff and a lot of singles, but I come away with a hundred in a must-win game, and that’s very satisfying,” Balbirnie said.

“It was not that easy a pitch to get in on, so the longer I was there, the easier it was for guys like Niall and Kevin, so I just thought I could bat as long and get a score and others can come and bat positively and that is what happened.”

Victory lifted the Irish level on four points with West Indies, who play table-toppers Zimbabwe – who have five points – in Harare on Monday.

Ireland have one match left, in the final fixture of the Super Six stage on Friday against Afghanistan, who they beat in a three-match series in Sharjah at the end of 2017.

The fate of both sides might potentially have been sealed by then, but Will Porterfield, the Irish captain, is grateful they still have chance.

“We knew we had to turn up and get two points today,” Porterfield said. “We were disappointing with the bat against Zimbabwe, so this turnaround was pleasing. We were good against Afghanistan over the last winter and back ourselves.”

Scotland remain level on five points at the top of the table with Zimbabwe, with just one fixture still to play, against West Indies on Wednesday.

“It was one of the best wickets in the tournament so far,” Coetzer said. “It was a chaseable score on that surface, but we will take things out of this game and we have to move on.”

UAE, who are no longer able to take one of the two qualifying berths on offer at the 10-team competition, return to action against Afghanistan on Tuesday.