BELFAST - Opener Paul Stirling's century was not enough as Pakistan did just enough to beat Ireland by five wickets and claim a 2-0 one-day international series win in Belfast.
Stirling hit an impressive 109 to lead a vastly-improved Irish batting display after they had been bowled out for just 96 in Saturday's opener. Ireland this time managed 238 for eight, a total that might have been bigger but for some clever bowling from Saeed Ajmal (four for 35) at the end which proved crucial as Pakistan made heavy work of the chase.
The tourists crawled past 100 in the 30th over but half-centuries from Younus Khan and Umar Akmal, who provided the much-needed late hitting, saw Pakistan across the line with eight balls to spare. Defeat for Ireland meant they failed to claim a timely win over a full-member nation with their, and the associate nations', World Cup hopes still up in the air.
The ICC chief executives' committee is due to meet next month to discuss the possibility of over-ruling their omission from the 2015 tournament. Today's performance was, however, more reflective of the form that had led to widespread calls for Ireland to be given a route back into the World Cup, while 20-year-old Stirling's impressive century - his first against a full-member nation - underlined the young talent emerging from the country.
It looked like his heroics with the bat might be rewarded with victory when Pakistan initially made pained progress in their chase after M Hafeez chipped Trent Johnston to mid-on before he had scored.
A circumspect 63-run stand between Kumar Taufeeq (31) and debutant Azhar Ali (39) then allowed the required rate to climb before they both fell in quick succession to put the pressure on the middle order batting.
|E Joyce||c Salman b Ajmal||17|
|P Stirling||b Junaid||109|
|W Porterfield||b Hafeez||15|
|A Cusack||st Salman b Ajmal||26|
|K O'Brien||c Azam b Ajmal||7|
|G Wilson||c Azam b Junaid||33|
|J Mooney||c Salman b Ajmal||6|
|T Johnston||run outx||3|
|N Jones||not out||0|
|A White||not out||4|
|Extras||(lb10, w7, nb1)||18|
|Total||(8 wkts, 50 overs)||238|
|Fall of wickets||1-65, 2-108, 3-174, 4-182, 5-198, 6-218, 7-233, 8-233|
|M Hafeez||c White b Johnston||0|
|Taufeeq Umar||c Stirling b O'Brien||31|
|Azhar Ali||c Stirling b Rankin||39|
|Younus Khan||c O'Brien b Cusack||64|
|Misbah-ul-Haq||c Wilson b Mooney||32|
|Umar Akmal||not out||60|
|Hammad Azam||not out||1|
|Extras||(lb 11, w 4)||15|
|Total||(5 wickets; 48.4 overs)||242|
|Fall of wickets||1-2, 2-65, 3-80, 4-148, 5-237|