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Ireland wobble but Porterfield ton maintains perfect start to World Cup qualifiers

Graham Ford’s side continued their winning form against Papua New Guinea this afternoon.

Ireland now face West Indies this weekend.
Ireland now face West Indies this weekend.
Image: Julian Herbert-IDI

IT OUGHT TO have been a lot more straightforward, but in the end Ireland wobbled and made hard work of finishing the job of dispatching Papua New Guinea in their second World Cup qualifier in Harare.

Graham Ford’s side ultimately got over the line to make it two wins from two in Group A but it was a close run thing, as Ireland’s middle order fragility was again exposed despite William Porterfield’s 11th ODI century.

The Ireland captain put on a stand of 108 with Ed Joyce, who scored a half-century of his own, to put their side firmly in the driving seat in pursuit of PNG’s 235 all out, but a flurry of wickets thereafter made it a nervy finish.

Niall and Kevin O’Brien both fell cheaply and it was up to Gary Wilson and George Dockrell to steady the ship and see Ireland home with just five balls remaining, securing a victory which consolidates their position at the top of Group A.

While the manner in which Ireland stumbled over the line leaves much to be desired, another controlled and disciplined bowling display, as well as the form of the top order, leaves grounds for optimism heading into Saturday’s crucial clash with West Indies.

Ireland know they will need to make immeasurable improvements in nearly every facet if they are to take control of their own World Cup destiny by upsetting the tournament favourites, but overall it has been a solid start to the campaign for Ford’s men, who are now nine games unbeaten in the 50-over format.

In the one change from Sunday’s opening win over Netherlands, Andy McBrine replaced Barry McCarthy and the 24-year-old vindicated his selection by taking three wickets as Ireland stamped their authority on the contest from the opening ball.

926998280 Source: Julian Herbert-IDI

PNG lost wickets at regular intervals but opening batsman Tony Ura remained resolute in defence and attack to hold his side’s innings together with a quite remarkable, and record-breaking, knock of 155 from just 144 balls.

It was very much a one-man show for PNG as Ura not only managed to keep the score ticking over as wickets fell at the other end, but then launched a devastating counter-offensive as he struck 10 boundaries and six sixes to rescue his side who had slumped to 55/5 at one stage.

Ireland were left frustrated as PNG rallied to post a competitive total of 235, with O’Brien claiming his second wicket off the last ball of the 50 overs.

The initial reply was impressive from Ireland as Porterfield went about knocking off the runs despite the loss of Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie at the other end, and he combined with Joyce to bring Ireland within striking distance of victory.

It should have been a lot more convincing but in a high-stakes tournament, the end result is all that matters.

Two down, five to go.

ICC World Cup Qualifier, Group A:

Papua New Guinea 235 all out (Tony Ura 151, Andy McBrine 3/38, Boyd Rankin 2/41)

Ireland 237/6 (William Porterfield 111, Ed Joyce 53)

Ireland win by four wickets — full scorecard available here

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Ryan Bailey

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