Ireland hit Intercontinental Cup final stumbling block

Afghanistan

Ireland's quest to become the first team to win three ICC tournaments in a calendar year hit a stumbling block on the opening day of their Intercontinental Cup final against Afghanistan as they were bowled out for just 187 in Dubai.

Ireland's quest to become the first team to win three ICC tournaments in a calendar year hit a stumbling block on the opening day of their Intercontinental Cup final against Afghanistan as they were bowled out for just 187 in Dubai.

Three wickets in the final session from John Mooney ensured the damage was restricted somewhat, as their opponents closed on 81/3, trailing by 106 runs.

With Ireland's bowling resources weakened due to the late withdrawal of Tim Murtagh for personal reasons, Mooney took up the mantle to spearhead a spirited fightback after a below-par batting display.

The 31-year-old removed both opening batsmen thanks to stunning catches from wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien, who is deputising for a bed-stricken Gary Wilson, and Andrew White at third slip. The wicket of the dangerous Mohammad Shezad (16) was all his own work, however, as he clung onto a sharp return catch.

"TJ and Max [Sorensen] did brilliantly at the start to restrict them and not let them get away and I was the lucky one to reap the rewards and get the wickets," Mooney said at the close of play. "Our backs are against the wall now after a very poor performance with the bat but we're by no means down and out."

The North County all-rounder had earlier shared a fifty-four run partnership with John Anderson, who scored an industrious half-century, to propel their side up to a respectable total after four wickets from Dawlat Zadran had seen Ireland slump to 67/5.

A combination of poor shot selection and an inspired spell of fast-bowling exposed Ireland's much revered top-order at the ICC Global Academy. Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien came and went cheaply before White, who is playing a record equalling 226th match for Ireland, was trapped in front by 20-year-old Rahmat Shah.

Anderson showed great application and tenacity during his innings of 55, which spanned over 111 balls and included eight boundaries. However, his dismissal was quickly followed by the departure of Mooney (33) as Ireland's first innings came to an abrupt end despite some late resistance by the tail.

"There's no doubt it's a good pitch and if you apply yourself, there are runs to be scored as Ando [Anderson] showed," Mooney added. "We'll come back fresh tomorrow morning and hopefully get a few early wickets to get us right back in the game."

<b>Ryan Bailey</b>

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