22 May 2007

Canada dismissed for 92; Jeremy Bray century gives Irish 158-run lead at the close

Ireland had a day to remember at Grace Road today (Tuesday) on day one of the ICC Intercontinental Cup final, bowling Canada out for just 92 and then building an innings lead of 158 by the close.

Defending the cup it won at the end of 2005 in Namibia, Ireland showed why it is favourite to retain the title, putting in a clinical display of probing bowling, athletic fielding and hungry batting. As such, the box seat is theirs.

The misery began early on for Canada. In his first competitive match as captain, Ashish Bagai lost the toss and, having spotted a little greenness in the pitch, his opposite number Trent Johnston did not hesitate in deciding to bowl first.

Grace Road is renowned for offering swing on the first morning of a match and this was no exception. Johnston and David Langford-Smith put the ball in the right areas, full of a length, and soon reaped the reward.

John Davison was out in the first over, trapped lbw to a yorker-length delivery from Langford-Smith. His opening partner, Geoff Barnett, didn't last much longer, out in similar fashion to Johnston for just four.

Abdool Samad was the only one who really threatened to get to grips with the Irish bowlers but, after making 29, he became the third lbw victim and Johnston's second.

After that, it was a steady procession of Canadian batsmen back to the pavilion as Ireland's bowlers made the very most of the swinging conditions. Johnston finished with fine figures of 4-12 off 9.4 overs while medium pacer Thinus Fourie made his mark with 3-31, and Kevin O'Brien chipped in with 2-4 off four overs.

Umar Bhatti was left unbeaten on 22 but he and Samad apart, no other Canadian made double figures.

When it came Ireland's turn to bat, openers Jeremy Bray and William Porterfield dug in and weathered a new-ball storm from Bhatti and Henry Osinde and once the shine had worn off a little bit they set about building towards an innings lead.

Bray took the initiative and was quick to latch on to anything wide of off stump. He passed fifty off 54 balls and hit nine fours and a pick-up six over midwicket in the process.

They eventually put on 202, an Intercontinental Cup record for the first wicket, with Bray reaching his seventh century for Ireland (equalling the all-time Ireland record set by Ivan Anderson in 1980). It took him 112 balls and included 19 fours and that single six. He ended up with 146 before giving an easy catch to Asif Mulla at first slip off the off-spin of Davison.

Porterfield fell immediately afterwards caught by Bagai off Samad for 54 and when Peter Gillespie was out not much later, lbw to Samad, a Canadian recovery was possible. At the close Ireland was 250-3 with Eoin Morgan (17 not out) and Kevin O'Brien (13 not out) at the wicket.

Early wickets are essential if Canada is to turn this match around. Play at Grace Road resumes at 1100.

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