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Pakistan finish with Ireland flourish

31 May, 2011

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BELFAST: Pakistan completed a 2-0 one-day international series win over Ireland in Belfast with victory by five wickets at Stormont here on Monday that rounded off eight months on the road.

Pakistan, set a target of 239, won with eight balls to spare thanks mainly to half-centuries from Younis Khan (64) and Umar Akmal (60 not out).

The World Cup semi-finalists have been unable to play any major matches at home since an armed attack on Sri Lanka`s tour bus in Lahore in March 2009 made the country a `no-go zone` for the world`s leading teams.

But there were few signs of travel-weariness against Ireland.

Only Mohammad Hafeez, dismissed in the second over without scoring, failed but Taufiq Umar and Azhar Ali, in his first one-day international, shared 65 for the second wicket to put Pakistan back on course.

Younis Khan played the decisive innings with 64 from 74 balls, including four fours and a six.

He shared stands of 68 for the fourth wicket with captain Misbah-ul-Haq and 69 for the fifth with Akmal, who faced just 48 balls and hit six fours and a six.

The Ireland bowlers stuck to their task well with Boyd Rankin the most economical, conceding just 29 runs in his nine overs and also ending the innings of Azhar Ali, caught at slip by Paul Stirling.

It was Stirling who was named man-of-the-match after setting up the contest with a wonderfully entertaining 109, his first century against a Full Member nation, to follow ODI hundreds against Canada and, at the recent World Cup, the Netherlands.

At the interval, Pakistan would have been delighted to be chasing only 239.

Ireland, skittled out for 96 during Pakistan`s seven-wicket win in Saturday`s series opener, were on course for a substantial total while the 20-year-old Stirling was at the crease.

The batsman, who plays for English county Middlesex, made 109 off just 107 balls with four sixes and seven fours.

But when he was fourth out for 182 at the start of the 44th over, Ireland failed to kick-on.

The hosts lost momentum during the one rain interruption in the innings, after 37 overs, with Ireland on 159 for two.

Ireland took their batting powerplay two overs after the resumption but Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan bowled five excellent overs which brought two wickets and yielded only 23 runs.

Junaid, Saturday`s man-of-the-match with four wickets, finished with two for 53 but the majority of those runs came in his first spell when Stirling was on the rampage.

The 21-year-old left-arm paceman got his revenge in the powerplay when he bowled Stirling and he followed up with wicket of Gary Wilson, in the last over, for 33.

Off-spinner Ajmal was Pakistan`s most successful bowler with four for 35.

His haul included Kevin O`Brien, scorer of the fastest-ever World Cup century during Ireland`s shock win over England in Bangalore in March.


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