Pakistan bowled Ireland out for just 96 on the way to a seven-wicket win in the first one-day international at Stormont in Belfast on Saturday to go 1-0 up in the two-game series.
Left-arm paceman Junaid Khan, in only his fifth match at this level, took four wickets for 12 runs in five overs before off-spinner Saeed Ajmal polished off the tail with three for seven in three.
World Cup semi-finalists Pakistan made light of the blustery conditions, despite having arrived from the West Indies just 48 hours earlier and finding a drop in temperature of 20°C.
It was all a far cry for Ireland, cricket’s leading non-Test nation, from a World Cup campaign where only two months ago they beat England with a record chase of 328. Pakistan’s cause was helped by winning the toss in a rain-delayed match and bowling first, with Ireland’s -batsmen unable to cope with the swinging and seaming ball. Junaid Khan, just 21 years old, proved too hot for the hosts and Saeed Ajmal finished off the tail with three wickets for seven runs in three overs.
When Pakistan were set a revised victory target of 95 in 36 overs, the batsmen did not have to take any risks and the Test match opening pair of Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Iqbal used all their know-how to tame the enthusiastic Ireland attack.
When the first wicket stand reached 73, it looked as if it would be a 10 wickets win, but Alex Cusack found a good length and his movement off the pitch had Taufeeq well caught low down at slip.
Cusack then had Hafeez bowled the ball after bringing up his fifty in 83 balls, including a six and eight fours, before removing Asad Shafiq caught behind. Australia-born all-rounder Cusack took three for 13.
Misbah-ul-Haq, in his first match as captain of the Pakistan one-day team, hit the winning boundary, with man-of-the-match honors going to Junaid.
The match started as a 38 overs per side game and another rain break reduced the contest by a further two overs.
At that stage, Ireland were in trouble at 76 for six and it would have been even worse but for a whirlwind 39 from 22 balls by Paul Stirling. The Middlesex opener hit seven fours and a six, including 19 off Tanvir Ahmed’s second over which took him out of the attack, but when he was out, skying Junaid into the covers, in the sixth over, his teammates folded with virtually no resistance.
Apart from Stirling, only Gary Wilson (11) and Kevin O’Brien (15), the hero against England with the fastest-ever World Cup century, reached double figures for Ireland.