Pakistan beat Ireland in Belfast to take 2-0 series win

Second one-day international, Stormont, Belfast:
Pakistan 242-5 (48.4 overs) beat Ireland 238-8 (50 overs) by five wickets
Match scorecard
Paul Stirling smashes the ball away during his impressive century at Stormont
Paul Stirling smashes the ball away during his impressive century at Stormont

Pakistan secured a five-wicket victory over Ireland in Belfast on Monday to complete a 2-0 series win.

Middlesex opener Paul Stirling scored 109 from 107 balls to help the hosts to 238-8 from their 50 overs at Stormont.

The tourists crawled past 100 in the 30th over before Younus Khan (64) and Umar Akmal (60 not out) guided Pakistan home with eight balls to spare.

This was a much closer contest after Pakistan's seven-wicket rout at the same venue on Saturday.

Stirling's impressive 109 was the highlight of a vastly-improved Irish batting display after they had been bowled out for just 96 in the opener.

Ireland's total of 238 might have been bigger but for some clever bowling from Saeed Ajmal (4-35) at the end, which proved crucial as Pakistan made heavy work of the chase.

Akmal provided the much-needed late hitting which saw Pakistan across the line.

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 International Cricket Council chief executives' committee is due to meet next month to discuss the possibility of over-ruling their omission from the 2015 tournament.

Umar Akmal clips Trent Johnston away during his unbeaten 60
Umar Akmal clips Trent Johnston away during his unbeaten 60

Monday'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 an ICC 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 Mohammad Hafeez chipped Trent Johnston to mid-on before he had scored.

A circumspect 63-run stand between Taufeeq Umar (31) and Azhar Ali (39), making his one-day international debut after 12 Tests for Pakistan, then allowed the required rate to climb before they both fell in quick succession to put the pressure on the middle order.

Despite that, old hands Younus and Misbah-ul-Haq remained unfazed at the start of their 68-run stand as Pakistan crawled past 100 in the 30th over, before they finally upped the tempo.

Misbah launched Kevin O'Brien back over his head for six although his dismissal, caught behind off John Mooney for 32, kept Ireland alive.

At that stage there was plenty of work still to be done, with Pakistan needing 91 from the last 12 overs, but Younus and Akmal combined effectively.

Akmal provided the youthful aggression, hitting an unbeaten 60 off 47 balls, while Younus played the role of composed veteran adding 64 from 74 balls before he was out two runs from victory.

Ireland captain William Porterfield had earlier made the brave choice to bat first on the same Stormont wicket his unchanged team had disappointed so emphatically two days earlier.

His decision was soon rewarded as Ireland surpassed their horror opening-game 96 for the loss of only Ed Joyce (17), who edged behind off Ajmal.

Stirling was quickly into his stride swiping both Junaid Khan and Umar Gul over the square boundary, but his innings was not all about aggression.

After his skipper Porterfield (15) was bowled by Hafeez, Stirling responsibly worked the ball around the field as he dug in for the big score his side needed.

It was mature batsmanship from one of Ireland's most promising young players and he was rewarded for it with a century from 94 balls, which included seven fours and a six.

He was eventually bowled trying to thrash Junaid in the final over of the batting powerplay, before the clever Ajmal frustrated Ireland's late hitting by removing the dangerous O'Brien (10) and Mooney (six).

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