Ireland's quest for Test status moved a step closer after they completed a 145 run win on the final day of their ICC InterContinental Cup clash against a determined Papua New Guinea side in Townsville.
Tim Murtagh (2-25) gave the Irish the perfect start to the day, when he dismissed the danger man Asad Vala (20). The first innings centurion edged behind to a diving Niall O’Brien – one of five dismissals for the keeper.
O’Brien now has fifty dismissals in the InterContinental Cup – well clear of his nearest challenger, Mohammad Shahzad of Afghanistan (42). He was again called into action as Craig Young (2-50) found the edge of opener Vani Morea (35).
Kevin O’Brien (1-24) trapped Mahuru Dai (4), and Andy McBrine (1-36) claimed his first wicket of the game, when Chris Amini was smartly stumped.
— Kevin O'Brien (@KevinOBrien113) February 3, 2016
A stubborn sixth wicket stand of 54 between Sese Bau (45) and Jack Vare (31) held up the Irish victory charge for 27 overs, but their resistance was blown away by the returning Boyd Rankin (3-31).
The giant paceman removed both along with Norman Vanua in the space of sixteen deliveries to take the Irish to the brink of victory. George Dockrell (1-22) took the ninth wicket – O’Brien claiming his second stumping, and John Reva’s brief cameo was ended when Tim Murtagh collected an easy catch off the bowling of Craig Young.
The win means Ireland now top the table with maximum points from their first three games. Their haul of 60 points sees them 14 clear of second placed The Netherlands.
— George Dockrell (@georgedockrell) February 3, 2016
Ireland's next fixture in the competition is a home tie against Hong Kong later this summer. John Bracewell's side now switch their attention to T20 cricket – playing three Internationals against Papua New Guinea starting on Saturday as their preparations begin for the World T20 finals in India in March.
ICC INTERCONTINENTAL CUP
IRELAND 289 and 244/5 dec (64 overs; K O'Brien 75*, E Joyce 58, A McBrine 40*, G Wilson 27, L Nou 2/37)
PAPUA NEW GUINEA 188 and 200 all out (73.4 overs; S Bau 45, V Morea 35, J Vare 31, J Reva 21, A Vala 20, B Rankin 3-31, T Murtagh 2-25, C Young 2-50)
Ireland beat Papua New Guinea by 145 runs