First ODI, Abu Dhabi: UAE 270-4 off 49 overs (C Rizwan 109, M Usman 102no; C Campher 2-31, B McCarthy 2-60) beat Ireland 269-5 off 50 overs (P Stirling 131no, A Balbirnie 53; R Mustafa 2-43) by six wickets.
Paul Stirling’s unbeaten century was not enough to prevent Ireland slipping to defeat in the first match of their one-day series against the United Arab Emirates.
Stirling’s last international innings was his magnificent 142 against England in August and he instantly tapped back into that groove in Abu Dhabi, striking an unbeaten 131 after the tourists opted to bat first.
The Belfast-born opener hit nine fours and four sixes en route to his 10th ODI ton, but his side were unable to defend a total of 269 for five.
Captain Andy Balbirnie offered sound support, posting 53 in a century stand, but there was limited firepower elsewhere in the batting line-up, with Harry Tector and Lorcan Tucker hustled out in single figures by Rohan Mustafa in the middle order.
The home side timed their chase impeccably, getting over the line with exactly an over to spare as Chundangapoyil Rizwan (109) and Muhammad Usman (102 not out) put on a game-changing stand of 184.
Coming together at 51 for three after a couple of early strikes from Barry McCarthy, the pair proved too good in their own conditions. Curtis Campher returned two for 31 in a full 10-over stint, but the runs could not be curtailed.
Balbirnie praised Stirling for another brilliant innings and admitted that his side will take some positives into Sunday’s second of four encounters despite the setback in the opener.
“Yeah, it was a good knock from Paul, he’s obviously our world class batsman and to bat 50 overs and get a score like he did and get us to a total which we thought was just above par on a pretty slow wicket,” said Balbirnie.
“After being 141 for one we were looking at 300 and then unfortunately I got out and that sort of gave them some momentum. But we managed to take some momentum into the second innings with us too.
“I thought we kept them under wraps pretty well but they batted very well at the back end and put our bowlers under pressure. So look the bowlers are going to learn, that’s all we can ask. We’re hugely disappointed with the result naturally, we’re here to win games of cricket.
“We don’t have much time to reflect, we’re going to be back on the parkin a couple of days and hopefully guys put good what went bad today, but there were some good things today and we have to take that forward too.”