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Ireland just about on top but Namibia fight hard on day one

Defending champion Ireland will feel it has taken a big step towards making it a hat-trick of wins

Ireland just about on top but Namibia fight hard on day one - Cricket News
Louis Burger hits unbeaten 72 to leave his side on 241-9 at stumps

Defending champion Ireland will feel it has taken a big step towards making it a hat-trick of wins in the ICC Intercontinental Cup by reducing Namibia to 241-9 at the close of play on day one in Port Elizabeth.

With St George's Park drenched in early-summer sunshine and the pitch promising to yield plenty of runs to hard-working batsmen, Louis Burger had no hesitation in batting after winning the toss.

But after a steady start between LP van der Westhuizen and JB Burger, the Irish bowlers got stuck in and having been 36-0, Namibia suddenly found itself at 37-2 with both openers back in the pavilion.

Craig Williams and Sarel Burger then steadied things and saw the Africans through to lunch with the game nicely poised on 73-2.

But Ireland's bowlers did well after the break. Right-arm seamer Peter Connell, who has been enjoying himself in this competition to date, got rid of them both thus taking his 21st and 22nd wickets in just his fifth match in the tournament.

Connell's team-mates also then got in on the act with Andre Botha dismissing danger man Gerrie Snyman and Alex Cusack finding Deon Kotze's outside edge with former captain Trent Johnston coolly taking the catch at first slip. Having been in a solid position at lunch Namibia was in serious trouble at 119-6.

If ever there was a time for the captain to stick his chest out and provide real resistance this was it. After all, it was he who had decided to take first use of the batting track. Batting at six Louis Burger knew he was all that stood between his side and potential oblivion and he did a superb job for his team.

By the close of play he was left there unbeaten on 72, having faced 158 balls and hit 10 fours and one crisp straight six off Kyle McCallan. He was provided with some support along the way, particularly by Bjorn Kotze (43) with whom he put on a crucial 91-run partnership and, in a very entertaining closing few overs, Kola Burger (22 not out).

Kola's knock consisted of just 11 balls and included five fours as the tail-ender showed disdain for the bowlers who had given his colleagues so much strife during the day. If he shows the same determination on the second morning, Namibia may well add significantly to its overnight total of 241-9.

Of course this is not the first time Kola has sent Ireland's bowlers to all corners of a cricket ground. In 2006, he smashed four sixes on his way to a 20-ball 36 at Castle Avenue, Dublin so William Porterfield and his men would not have been surprised with his cameo performance today.

Afterwards, captain Louis Burger was reasonably happy with the day's performance.

"I think 240 looks a lot better now than it did earlier today. I feel a lot of the guys didn't value their wickets enough. At least three of the wickets that went down were due to loose shots. But overall, I am happy enough with 241 and hopefully we can go out in the morning and score a few more runs.

"If the ball is there I can certainly score a few more. I am with Kola and he can hit the ball further than me so I might leave the hitting to him and try to rotate the strike. If we can bat another 10 or 20 overs that would be ideal.

"When I got in there we 82-4 and I just wanted to stabilise the innings and bat as long as I could. I am a bit disappointed with a few of the shots the guys got out playing but eventually we got somewhere close to a competitive total and it will be up to our bowlers tomorrow to do a good job for us."

Of Ireland's attack, Connell ended up with the best figures of 4-51 while big Boyd Rankin chipped in with 2-62, including a hugely important wicket to remove Bjorn Kotze.

This is a good batting wicket and a credit to the St George's Park ground staff so Ireland's batsmen will want to get in early and start making a dent in the Namibia total, whatever Louis and Kola can bring it up to. Play resumes at 1030.

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



Hours of play:
First session - 1030-1230
Second session - 1315-1510
Third session - 1530-1730

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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