NIALL O'BRIEN'S half century has given Ireland a slight advantage after the first day of the InterContinental Cup clash with Papua New Guinea in Townsville.

The veteran left-hander top scored with a patient 63 as Ireland finished on 232 for 5, on a day which saw 21 overs lost due to a combination of bad light and rain.

O'Brien will be disappointed however at being dismissed just before the close of play - miscuing a pull shot off Norman Vanua having batted for 168 balls in a marathon effort.

The Dubliner will have been eyeing a record-equalling seventh hundred in the competition, before falling to the second new ball.

It was at times an attritional affair, with Papua New Guinea's attack offering few easy pickings for the experienced Irish top order. Their discipline, combined with a sluggish pitch and slow outfield meant the rate never got above three for most of the day.

Skipper William Porterfield (15) fell early, but Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce added 54 to wrest back the initiative. Stirling chopped on for 42, but it was the prize wicket of Joyce which had the Pacific Islanders whooping with delight.

Joyce had scored two double hundreds in Ireland's first two games in the competition but was stumped by Jack Vare off spinner Mahuru Dai for 35, beaten by the turn as he advanced down the track trying to break the shackles.

Gary Wilson joined Niall O'Brien and the pair added 69 for the fourth wicket, with the Belfast man striking five boundaries in his 48, before being trapped lbw by Chad Soper.

Kevin O'Brien is still there unbeaten on 19, being joined by Andy McBrine - batting at number seven for the first time at international level. He's promoted to the key slot following the retirement of John Mooney and the foot injury suffered by Stuart Thompson.

Ireland's batting isn't perhaps as strong as in recent times - Head Coach John Bracewell opting to play an extra bowler in the sapping conditions - Andrew Balbirnie missing out after being nearly an ever present in 2015.

Papua New Guinea will reflect on a day of missed opportunities in the field - dropped catches and possible run outs going begging.

The game is till very much in the balance, with a crucial morning session tomorrow possibly determing the destiny of the match.

Ireland will be hoping to add another 100 runs at least, with PNG looking to keep them under 300, as the second new ball is just four overs old.

ICC InterContinental Cup,
At Tony Ireland Stadium, Townsville, Day 1 of 4

IRELAND 232/5 (85 overs, N O'Brien 63, G Wilson 48, P Stirling 42, E Joyce 35, K O'Brien 19*, N Vanua 2-47)


Continues Monday at 9:35am (local time)