A century stand between Kevin O’Brien and Donemana’s Andy McBrine has put Ireland in a strong position going into the final day of their InterContinental Cup clash with Papua New Guinea in Townsville.
The pair came together with Ireland on 129 for five - an overall lead of 230 - sharing an unbroken sixth wicket partnership of 115 in 139 balls.
O’Brien struck five fours and two sixes in his unbeaten 75 from 95 balls, while McBrine also cleared the boundary ropes in his 40 not out - the first maximum of the match coming late on the third day.
Earlier in the day, the Irish had secured the six points on offer for the first innings lead, after taking the last three wickets for the addition of just 22 runs. Asad Vala, the last to be dismmised for a superb 120.
Tim Murtagh claimed the final wicket to finish with 4 for 33, with the other successful Irish bowlers Boyd Rankin (3-21), Craig Young (2-42), and George Dockrell (1-36).
Ireland’s positivity in their second innings saw the downfall of William Porterfield, Paul Stirling and Niall O’Brien cheaply, and at 42 for three, PNG were very much in the game.
Ed Joyce and Gary Wilson steadied the ship with a patient fourth wicket stand of 76, before Wilson was trapped lbw on 27.
Joyce fell soon after, unluckily run out for 58 after an O’Brien drive was deflected onto his stumps by Norman Vanua.
Skipper Porterfield declared setting the Pacific Islanders a tough challenge on 346 to win, and their task became tougher as Murtagh once again got the breakthrough, as Lega Siaka (14) edged through to Niall O’Brien.
There was no further success for the Irish as Vani Morea (18*) and first innings centurion Vala (17*) took PNG to 50 for one at the close.
The final day starts with all results still possible. Ireland will be favourites to claim the nine wickets needed to secure the full 20 points on offer, but will be wary of the hosts’ ability to chase down a total. Asad Vala’s unbeaten 124 leading their successful pursuit of 305 against The Netherlands last summer.