Dubai, Mar 22: Ireland are on the brink of securing a spot in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 after winning their fifth round 50-over matches in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Championship against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Both matches were streamed live on the ICC website www.icc-cricket.com.
Ireland won both matches, played earlier on Monday and Wednesday, by five wickets and six wickets respectively.
The double-win means that Ireland has opened up a six-point lead over second-placed Scotland and Afghanistan, who are both sitting on 11 points. It's a three-way tie for third place, with the Netherlands, Kenya and the UAE just one point behind.
With five teams in contention for the crucial second position, the stage is set for a mouth-watering sixth round, which will be played in July/August.
Ireland's final two round fixtures in the WCL Championship are against the Netherlands and Scotland. If the European side wins two matches, then it will be assured of a place in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 irrespective of how the other matches in the tournament pan out.
In contrast, the UAE will play Canada and Namibia in its final round matches. The UAE will need to win all four matches to keep its hopes alive for a top-two finish.
The top two sides from the WCL Championship will qualify automatically for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. The final two positions in the ICC's flagship event will then be determined at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, which will be staged in New Zealand in 2014.
With so much riding on each match, the UAE will be closely following the WCL Championship matches between Namibia and Netherlands in April, as back-to-back victory for the Dutch will put them in second position on the Championship table.
Reverting to the Ireland-UAE matches, wicketkeeper-batsman Gary Wilson set up Ireland's first victory with an unbeaten 72, while captain William Porterfield led from the front on Wednesday to steer Ireland to a six wicket win.
On Monday, Wilson's measured 72 not out from 102 balls, including 10 fours, assisted his team to reach the 166-run target in the 42nd over. In the second match, Porterfield top-scored with 77 runs to assist his side chase down the 200-run target in the 48th over. The top wicket-takers for Ireland were Trent Johnston (four for 25), Alex Cusack (two for 40) and John Mooney (two for 46).
The attention will now turn to the final fixture of the fifth round, in which Namibia host Netherlands on 16 and 18 April. Prior to the fifth round, Netherlands held third spot in the Championship. A double win for Netherlands will move the side to second, one point behind Ireland and three points ahead of second-placed Scotland and Afghanistan.