A Paul Stirling unbeaten century – his second in consecutive ODI innings – positioned Ireland well in the first one-day international today, but a clinical run chase by UAE saw the home side achieve its first-ever ODI win over a Full Member.
Near faultless centuries from Chundangapoyil Rizwan and Muhammad Usman steered UAE to victory – their first win over Ireland in the seven ODI clashes between the two sides.
Chasing 270, the hosts got off to a shaky start losing their openers, Vriitya Aravind (14) and Zawar Farid (15), inside the first eight overs, with Barry McCarthy accounting for both the wickets.
UAE lost another wicket, when Curtis Campher had Alishan Sharafu caught behind for one in the 13th over, reducing the hosts to 52-3.
Ireland looked in total control before Rizwan and Usman came together and changed the course of the game. The duo made the visitors' bowlers toil, with both the batsmen smashing maiden hundreds.
The visitors kept hunting for the breakthrough - which came courtesy of a sensational catch by Harry Tector in the 46th over – but it was too late. Rizwan (109) had shared a 184-run stand with Usman – the highest by a UAE pair for any wicket in ODIs. Usman reached his hundred in the penultimate over and hit the winning runs, as he remained unbeaten on 105.
Earlier, Irish skipper Andrew Balbirnie won the toss and elected to have a bat first. Openers Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling provided their side a steady start, sharing a 39-run stand before losing O'Brien in the 8th over. He became UAE debutant Kashif Daud's maiden ODI victim, who had the opener clean bowled for 23.
The wicket brought Balbirnie to the crease who joined forces with Stirling, and together they stitched a solid century stand, with both the batsmen reaching their fifties along the way. They kept the scoreboard ticking over at a rapid pace en route to a 102-run second-wicket stand, which laid the foundation stone for Ireland’s innings.
Balbirnie, who made his 10th half-century in ODIs, was dismissed for 53. The Ireland captain was looking for a slog sweep but Ahmed Raza managed to turn the ball away, and got the top edge as UAE 'keeper Aravind took an easy catch.
From 141-1, Ireland slipped to 159-4, losing Balbirnie, Harry Tector (6) and Lorcan Tucker (4) in quick succession, with Rohan Mustafa accounting for the last two wickets.
Curtis Campher, the No.6 batsman, contributed with important runs, 24 from 30, before becoming Palaniapan Meiyappan's only victim of the day.
Gareth Delany then joined Stirling in the middle, and together they shifted gears. At the end of the 46th over, Stirling brought up his 10th ODI ton with a single. The duo added 55 runs from the last five overs, lifting their side to a competitive total of 269-5.
Stirling was Ireland's star batsman, smashing a sensational 131* from 148 and also passing 9,000 runs for Ireland across all formats in the process, becoming only the second Irish batsman to reach the landmark after William Porterfield.
UAE Men v Ireland Men, 1st ODI, Abu Dhabi, 8 January 2021
Ireland 269-5 (50 overs; P Stirling 131*, A Balbirnie 53; R Mustafa 2-43)
UAE 273-4 (49 overs; C Rizwan 109, M Usman 105*; C Campher 2-31, B McCarthy 2-63)
UAE won by 6 wickets.
Picture courtesy: Cricket Ireland.