x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

UAE coach Aaqib defends decision to bowl first as Ireland reach 272 for two in Sharjah

The hosts may have erred by inviting their opponents to bat first in their Intercontinental Cup match, writes Paul Radley.

Ireland captain William Porterfield, centre, bats against UAE during the first day of their ICC Intercontinental Cup match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah on Tuesday. Christopher Pike / The National
Ireland captain William Porterfield, centre, bats against UAE during the first day of their ICC Intercontinental Cup match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah on Tuesday. Christopher Pike / The National

SHARJAH // In the unlikely event that being not out one run short of a century overnight was enough to give Ed Joyce a restless sleep last night, then he might not have been the only one.

If any of the 16 players who have still to use this featherbed wicket in Sharjah miss out on scoring a stack of runs when they get their chance then they should be mortified.

On the evidence of a hard day of toil for the UAE's bowlers, the track they are using for this Intercontinental Cup tie has less life in it than a mortuary.

As such, the home side are likely to be in considerable arrears by the time their turn comes to bat.

All of which suggests the national team, fielding just one pace bowler in the debutant Mohammed Naveed, may have erred by inviting their opponents to bat first.

However, Aaqib Javed, the UAE coach, defended the decision of his side to bowl first, suggesting there is rarely a good time to bowl in Sharjah anyway.

The former Pakistan pace bowler played 34 internationals at this ground and was speaking from a position of some experience when he said he has "never seen a blade of grass here in 30 years".

"In Sharjah in a four-day game the first-innings collapse is the most important thing if you want to force a win," the coach said.

"That was the idea. We just wanted to give them a chance. I haven't seen Sharjah tun at any stage. The boys tried their best and their was nothing in the pitch."

As an endorsement of that view, William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, said he had not been surprised when he was invited to have first use.

"In terms of first innings scores if it is going to do anything in Sharjah it is going to do it in the first session," said Porterfield, whose 82 laid the platform for his side's success.

"We weren't necessarily surprised, there was less in the wicket than they probably thought there was going to be and we thought there was going to be early on."

Being not out on 99 overnight would be enough to send many batsmen foraging for the sleeping pills, but it is unlikely to have worried Joyce.

He is famously laid back. When he was first selected to play for England - his Ireland career has bookended a stint playing internationally across the Irish Sea - Joyce skipped the call from the chairman of selectors as he was out getting a loaf of bread.

"He is not the kind of bloke who gets flustered by much," Porterfield said. "He will just go about his business and keep churning away."

pradley@thenational.ae

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