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Balbirnie's fine 200 paves way for Irish

 

By Ian Callender in Malahide

Three wickets in the last hour of the day put Ireland in control of their Intercontinental Cup game against Netherlands and on course for a maximum points victory, possibly as early as tonight.

Andrew Balbirnie became only the third Ireland batsman to score a double century and William Porterfield's declaration shortly afterwards left the Dutch needing 328 just to avoid the follow-on. They were still 188 short at the close of the second day with just five wickets remaining.

Boyd Rankin took two early wickets but was given only five of the 45 overs left in the day and debutant Dan ter Braak and Ben Cooper put on 83 for the third wicket before Tim Murtagh broke the stand, his first wicket in 30 overs with the red ball for Ireland.

Jacob Mulder, however, was given an extended spell at the pavilion end and Porterfield and the CIYMS leg spinner's patience was rewarded with two wickets in three overs, albeit with a couple of rash shots, to reassert Ireland's dominance.

After rain delayed the start, Ireland had an hour's batting before lunch and lost the wicket of John Anderson, to a catch behind, for 74, the fifth time he has failed to convert an I-Cup 50 into a century, and Balbirnie was fortunate to reach 150 as the shot which took him to the landmark was dropped at slip.

But the Dubliner made the Dutch pay and never gave another chance as he brought up his double century from 332 balls with 23 fours and two sixes. He lost Gary Wilson, once again getting into the 30s and then getting out, although by that stage Ireland were chasing quick runs before the declaration and he was caught at long leg.

Kevin O'Brien, the ideal man for such a scenario, hit 13 off seven balls and, more surprisingly, Mulder followed suit, more successfully, and had scored 38 from just 22 balls, with two fours and three sixes, when Porterfield called them in 25 minutes before tea.

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