Easy opening win for Ireland


ALAN LEWIS carried out orders and carried his bat for a splendid 127 not out yesterday to set Ireland on their way to comfortable 192-run win over Gibraltar on the first day of ICC Trophy in Malaysia. It is part of coach Mike Hedrick's battle plan that Lewis, promoted to opener for this tournament, forms the spine of Ireland's batting and stays for as long as possible in order to anchor the more expansive Irish strokeplayers.

In the humidity of Kuala Lumpur it is a responsibility not many would have volunteered for but Lewis proved, albeit against a toothless Gibraltar attack, that it is possible to bat for over three hours without disappearing in a puddle of sweat.

He faced 142 balls, and still had the strength in his arms to lift two sixes after reaching his century as he went onto record the highest score by any Ireland batsman in one-day international.

Lewis appeared tense like his team-mates before the start of their bid to qualify for the 1999 World Cup and he allowed Decker Curry to take the lead in an opening stand of 86.

When Curry threatened something murderous against the gentle off-spin of Daniel Johnson and had his middle stump knocked back for 52, Justin Benson joined his predecessor as Irish captain in a classic second wicket partnership of 162.

Lewis said: "I lost it for a while around the 30-over mark, then I managed to get a big drink in and was fine again after that. It was always the plan for me to bat through but it's such a positive atmosphere here you just don't want to let the next guy in."

By the time Benson lofted a drive to long on, Gibraltar were beaten and their batting that followed was consistent with Lewis' assessment of them as on a par with a useful second division club side.

Mark Patterson proved too sharp and took 4 for 22. Neil Doak and Paul McCrum weighed in with two wickets apiece and the only blot on Hendrick's day was a wasteful 21 wides in a total of 31 extras - by far Gibraltar's biggest contributor in a miserable 86 all out.

Ireland have today off before they tackle Israel tomorrow, but such is the spirit and determination in the camp, 32-year-old Lewis will not be excused training this morning, nor will he seek to be. Ireland's leading opponents in qualifying Group A both won, but neither convincingly. Kenya allowed Israel to score 154 for 8, and the USA struggled to overcome lowly Singapore after slumping to 131 for 6.