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Three in a row for victorious Ireland

Porterfield's team prevail over Namibia

Three in a row for victorious Ireland - Cricket News
Porterfield's team prevail over Namibia in an ICC Intercontinental Cup final that swung back and forth more than once

A century from Niall O'Brien sealed a third successive victory for Ireland on day four of the ICC Intercontinental Cup final at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth.

The manner in which it chased 201 for victory was an impressive indication of the level of professionalism that exists within the ranks of the Ireland team at present. Up against the likes of Gerrie Snyman, Kola Burger and Louis Klazinga, Ireland's top order demonstrated why it can it is the stand-out Associate team in multi-day cricket.

When O'Brien and man of the match Alex Cusack resumed on Sunday morning, they needed only 67 runs to take the title. And despite the Namibians bowling better than they did the evening before, the pair never really looked in trouble and went on to secure a nine-wicket victory.

But if you think the result makes the match look like it was one-sided, don't be fooled. Namibia certainly had its chances of taking what would have been its first ever ICC Intercontinental Cup title and only some tenacious rear-guard performances by Ireland pulled this experienced team through to victory.

Cusack's first-innings knock was a case in point. At one stage Ireland was really struggling on 37-5 in reply to Namibia's total of 250. Snyman had put the wind up the Irish as he tore through the top five batsmen, including three in one sensational over of vicious pace and swing.

It was perhaps the spell of the tournament and it left Ireland's top batsmen unable to provide an answer. In the middle of it was Andre Botha. The 33-year-old North County all-rounder was earning his 100th for Ireland but, just like his debut in 2001, Botha was out first ball as Snyman ran amok.

But then somehow, in the face of the relentless onslaught, Cusack dug in and added 141 runs with Trent Johnston to put the defending champion back on the front foot.

Then the game swung again as first Johnston fell and then Ireland's tail failed to keep Cusack company in the middle with the Clontarf all-rounder left stranded on 95 not out when the innings closed.

But when Namibia came out to build on its first-innings lead of 55 runs it ran full into the face of a highly motivated and pumped-up Irish bowling attack. The pendulum swung back in favour of Ireland as the Africans were rolled over for 145.

But this still left 201 runs for victory ? not an easy fourth-innings target by any means, especially against perhaps the most dangerous bowling attack in the competition. The fact that Ireland had never scored 200 against Namibia in any ICC Intercontinental Cup innings also did not escape the minds of either captain but O?Brien and Porterfield put on 68 in quick time for the first wicket and then Cusack and O'Brien saw the job through to the end.

It was a final truly worthy of what has been a highly competitive and exciting tournament with eight teams, 29 matches and many memorable performances over the past 18 months or so. The fact that the arena for the decider was a world-class Test venue helped give the match a genuine sense of occasion and the teams played their part in living up to that, making it a final to remember.

"I am absolutely delighted," said Porterfield afterwards. To come here to Africa and win all three games to take the title for a third time is a great achievement and we are over the moon.

It seems a long time ago that we played our first game in the competition against Bermuda. It has been a long haul with lots of ups and downs but we have come through in the end.

We were certainly under pressure in this match. Namibia managed to get to 250 after we had them under the kosh early and then being 37-5 we did well to get within 50 or so of their total. We were pretty pleased on that front and then we knew we'd have to come out hard with ball in the second innings and we did that. All credit to the bowlers to keep the target to 200 and then we went out and did the job we should have done in the fist innings with the bat.

The way Cusack played in the first innings was very important. He kept his head and kept his composure when we were 37-5 and to build a big partnership with Trent was what was required at that time and they really dug in deep and then reaped the rewards.

We weren't surprised that Namibia were so good. We saw it a month ago in Windhoek and we were fortunate to come through that with an eight-run victory so all credit to them. I made my debut against them two years ago and the steps forward they have made in those two years is remarkable and they now have a side worthy of playing in this competition.

The full scorecard from the match can be found at www.icc-cricket.com. Live scores on the ICC website were provided by Cricinfo.

The ICC Intercontinental Cup has quickly grown in stature and profile since its inception four years ago and now the ICC?s premier first-class tournament is an integral part of the Associate Members? cricket schedule.

Having previously been designed around a two-group, three-day format, the event has evolved into an eight-team, round-robin and truly global tournament featuring four-day cricket which gives those teams who do not play Test cricket the chance to experience the longer form of the game.

Scotland won the first ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004, beating Canada in the final, while Ireland has been victorious in both events since then, beating Kenya in the 2005 decider and Canada in the 2006-07 event.

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