Another breathtaking match was witnessed in Dublin’s beautiful ground. Although Pakistan managed to win the 2nd ODI of the two-match series, Ireland have won the hearts of fans and experts of the game. While Pakistan’s preparation for the coming Champions Trophy is now open to questioning. Chasing a 230-run target, when Pakistan had lost seven wickets off 133 runs, even Kamran Akmal and Wahab Riaz might not be sure of leading their team to victory. However, Pakistan’s faults have been overshadowed by their performances, and their 93-run partnership in 10 overs saved the visitors from a humiliating defeat.

[caption id="attachment_1173" align="alignright" width="300"]Had Pakistan lost the match, they would have been the first team to have beaten by a non-Test playing nation (Photo: AFP) Had Pakistan lost the match, they would have been the first team to have beaten by a non-Test playing nation (Photo: AFP)[/caption]

Ed Joyce’s ton and later outstanding bowling by the Irish pacers had laid the foundations of victory for the hosts, but they were not destined to win. Joyce scored his maiden century for Ireland and remained at the crease till the end, playing an unbeaten innings of 116. The ‘green storm’ once again showed what they are capable of. Despite the difficulties in start of the innings, they played well, understanding the pitch and the conditions after Pakistan had put them into bat. Joyce’s inning was a sign that the hosts’ first priority was to stick at the crease and play out the overs, and gathering as much score as possible. That’s why a modest target of 230 runs became a Himalaya for Pakistan and they lost four wickets on just 17. On 60, half of Pakistan’s team were back in pavilion, including the team’s captain Misbah-ul-Haq.

Akmal and Shoaib Malik managed to add 52 runs for the sixth wicket, but the partnership broke when it was most needed, and Malik was dismissed on 43 off 58. Akmal was the last hope for Pakistan. He advanced his innings with Abdur Rehman, who was out when the team’s total was 133. Riaz was next to come in and after a slow start, he stole the show. Pakistan needed another 32 runs when in the 47th over started. Riaz avenged himself on Tim Murtagh for what the Irish bowler did to Pakistan in the initial overs. He hit three sixes and a four in the over, making 24 runs and almost finishing the match off. Akmal was dismissed in the last moments when the visitors were just four runs away from victory. Junaid Khan scored the final two runs in the next over to help Pakistan win the match, and the series. Akmal was the highest run-scorer for Pakistan with 81 off 85, while Riaz pitched in an undefeated 47 runs off 35 balls.

Murtagh, Trent Johnston and Alex Cusack took two wicket apiece, and Kevin O'Brien and George Dockrell took one wicket each.

The victory was also important for Pakistan as it salvaged Pakistan from a disgraceful record. Had the visitors lost the match, they would have been the first ever Test-playing nation to have lost a series by a non-Test-playing country.

Earlier, when Pakistan put Ireland into bat after winning the toss, the hosts did not lose hope despite losing the early wickets of Paul Stirling and William Porterfield. Especially, Ed Joyce had the nerves of steel to face Pakistani bowlers. Pakistan were playing without Mohammad Irfan and Saeed Ajmal and gave a chance to Asad Ali who made his career debut and lived up to expectations. He gave just 22 in 10 overs and taking a wicket as well. Joyce’s 65-run partnership with Niall O'Brien in the third wicket and 94-run partnership with Kevin O'Brien in the fifth wicket put Pakistan under pressure, but thanks to Abdur Rehman who restricted the opponents from scoring a big total.

[caption id="attachment_1171" align="alignright" width="300"]Ed Joyce’s maiden hundred for Ireland went in vain (Photo: AFP) Ed Joyce’s maiden hundred for Ireland went in vain (Photo: AFP)[/caption]

He sent the Irish batsmen to the pavilion at a time when they were poised to give Pakistan a difficult target, piggybacking on Joyce’s ton. The spinner took four wickets, including the last match’s hero Kevin O’Brien. Apart from Joyce, Niall O’Brien and Kevin O’Brien were the only Irish batsmen to score in double digits, scoring 29 and 38 runs, respectively. Studded with 12 fours and one six, Ed Joyce’s innings took 132 balls and ruled the first inning throughout. Joyce had stepped in in the first over after the dismissal of Stirling.

Besides Abdur Rehman’s four, Junaid Khan took two wickets, while Riaz, Ali and Mohammad Hafeez took one wicket apiece.

Akmal was given the man-of-the-match award for his match saving performance, while Kevin O’Brien received the player-of-the-series award for his all-round brilliance.

Though Ireland were not happy with the result, they must be surely satisfied with their performance in both matches. The first match ended in a draw and Ireland missed victory only by a very narrow margin. And in today’s match, only two players proved to be the stumbling block for them and they lost the match and the series. However, the way they controlled Pakistan has showed how capable they are.

Pakistan are now set to leave for England where the Champions Trophy will begin from June 6. They will play two warm-up matches against Sri Lanka and South Africa before the biggest tournament of the year.
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