x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Stirling effort from the Irish cannot deny Misbah's men series win

A century from Paul Stirling proved in vain for Ireland as Pakistan wrap up the ODI series in Belfast.

A century from Paul Stirling proved in vain for Ireland yesterday as Pakistan triumphed to take the second one-day international (ODI) match and complete a clean sweep of the two-match series.

Half-centuries from Younus Khan (64) and Umar Akmal (60 not out) saw Pakistan home in the end as they chased down Ireland's score of 238 for eight on 242 for five, but for a while it had looked as if it was going to be a difficult day at the office for Misbah-Ul-Huq's men.

Ireland, who had chosen to bat after William Porterfield, the captain, had won the toss, had initially looked as if they could be on for a sizeable score as they started strongly thanks to the efforts of Stirling.

The 20 year old struck seven boundaries and four sixes in a quick-fire 109, which came off 107 balls, and spearheaded the Irish innings.

He put on 65 for the first wicket with Ed Joyce (17), 43 for the second with Porterfield (15), and then 66 for the third with Alex Cusack (26).

At 174 for two with 10 overs remaining a large Irish score looked in the offing, but a mixture of poor shot selection, and some good bowling from the Pakistanis made scoring difficult.

Irish momentum was also hurt when Stirling became the fourth man dismissed, bowled by Junaid Khan for 109.

Saeed Ajmal, who had earlier picked up Joyce and Cusack, completed a fine day's work with the late wickets of Kevin O'Brien (seven) and John Mooney (six) to finish with figures of four for 35 from his 10 overs.

Pakistan's reply got off to a disastrous start as Mohammad Hafeez was caught at mid-on by Andrew White off Trent Johnston for a seven-ball duck.

But a second-wicket stand of 63 between Taufeeq Umar (32) and Azhar Ali (39) steadied the ship and kept their team up with the required run rate.

Stirling then took a starring role in the field, taking catches to dismiss Taufeeq and Azhar, off the bowling of O'Brien and Boyd Rankin to leave the game in the balance again at 80 for three. But Younus and Misbah picked up the baton from their teammates and were able to score quickly without taking risks.

The dismissal of Misbah to Mooney failed to slow the Pakistan train down with Akmal hitting two sixes and six boundaries to help Pakistan charge towards the finish line.

Though Younus fell just shy of the winning post, it mattered little as Akmal cracked a boundary off Cusack with eight balls remaining to secure the series 2-0.