BRISBANE: (Agencies) Ireland held their nerve to beat the United Arab Emirates by two wickets with just four balls to spare at Brisbane’s Gabba Ground on Wednesday as they moved a step closer to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Set 279 for victory after Shaiman Anwar scored the UAE’s first World Cup hundred, Ireland were faltering at 97 for four and 171 for five in this Pool B clash.
But Gary Wilson (80) and the big-hitting Kevin O’Brien, who made 50 off 24 balls, got them back on track with a sixth-wicket partnership of 72.
However, both batsmen fell within sight of victory and it was left to George Dockrell (seven not out) and Brisbane-born Alex Cusack (five not out) to see Ireland to victory as the two non-Test nations produced the most exciting game of the World Cup so far.
Defeat was tough on the amateurs from the Middle East, who were in dire straits at 131 for six.
But Anwar (106) and Amjad Javed (42) hit back with a record-breaking stand of 107 which took the UAE to 278 for nine.
Their partnership surpassed the previous World Cup best for the seventh wicket of 98 shared by the West Indies’ Ramnaresh Sarwan and Ridley Jacobs against New Zealand at Port Elizabeth in 2003.
Javed had a fine all-round match, also taking three for 60 with his deceptive medium pace and holding a brilliant catch at short third man that dismissed Wilson to give the UAE a late chance of victory.
Both Anwar, who made his previous one-day international best of 67 in the UAE’s tournament-opening loss to Zimbabwe, and Javed seized on a succession of short balls from Kevin O’Brien.
Anwar’s three down to third man off O’Brien saw him to a hundred in 79 balls with 10 fours and a six.
He was eventually out for 106, skying Max Sorensen to wicketkeeper Wilson, after scoring only the UAE’s second one-day international century following Khurram Khan’s 132 against Afghanistan last year. Javed was dismissed when well caught in the deep by Ed Joyce off Sorensen.
The UAE had an early breakthrough with the ball when seamer Manjula Guruge struck with just his fourth ball of the tournament when Paul Stirling, who made 92 against the West Indies, was caught behind for three.
Joyce had two fortunate reprieves on his way to making 37, having his stumps hit by Javed but bails settle on 16 and then being dropped off his own bowling by UAE captain Mohammad Tauqir.
However, Joyce couldn’t cash in, caught behind off Javed, and then Tauqir struck twice to reduce Ireland to 97 for four in the 26th over.
He bowled Ireland captain William Porterfield (37) as the batsman went to sweep and the spinner then had Niall O’Brien (17) out lbw playing a similar shot.
The run-rate climbed to more than nine an over before Kevin O’Brien — who four years ago struck the fastest World Cup century — took charge with a typically aggressive innings, although the UAE were hampered by Guruge (one for 21 off seven overs) being off the field with cramp.
After being dropped in the deep on 24, Kevin O’Brien powered his way to a 24-ball 50 with a straight six off Javed only to be caught off the next ball.
Wilson, with his first ODI fifty in more than a year, kept his cool until, with Ireland needing 13 to win, he was caught by Javed off Mohammad Naveed to end a 69-ball innings including nine fours.
But the UAE couldn’t take the two wickets they needed in the 15 balls left as Ireland scrambled home.