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Ireland draw little comfort as bowlers struggle once again

 

By Ian Callender

Seven hours after the start of the final day at Malahide, the scoreboard was the same - only the batsmen were different.

The Netherlands were 167-4, the total on which Ireland had resumed their second innings yesterday morning.

Visiting skipper Peter Borren and Ben Cooper batted the Ireland bowlers into submission, hopes of a fifth victory in their Intercontinental Cup campaign long gone.

The draw, agreed by the captains 25 minutes into the final hour, leaves Ireland just eight points ahead of Afghanistan, who have still two matches to play, against Hong Kong and UAE. Ireland have only one match, against Scotland in Dubai starting on November 29.

Once again the challenge for the Ireland bowlers will be to take 20 wickets, something they inadequately failed to do against a Dutch side which had won only two of their first five games and lost at home to Afghanistan in two days. Craig Young, George Dockrell and Barry McCarthy had a good four days, simply because they were left out of this match.

Captain William Porterfield, who completed his fifth I-Cup century, and 16th for Ireland - seven more than the next best - in the seventh over of the morning, decided to bat on for another four overs before he declared, leaving the Dutch a victory target of 343.

It was hardly a tempting target, and surely risking the extra three points which they earned for the draw and going all out for the 14 win points available would have been worth it - only outright victory would have kept the pressure on the Afghans at the top of the table.

Afterwards, Porterfield said he thought it was a "fair enough declaration" and was surprised the Netherlands "shut up shop" so early in the final session, needing only five an over with six wickets left. But debutant opener Dan ter Braak set the tone for the innings, facing 106 balls for his 23, with his second boundary coming the ball before he was dismissed.

Stephan Myburgh was the only the batsman to take on the bowling - 85 off 98 balls - but when Simi Singh took his first wicket for Ireland to leave the Dutch 126 for four, it was the high point of the day for the hosts.

With two and a quarter hours left in the game, however, it was to be Ireland's last success as Cooper and Borren batted out the next 32 overs, adding 54 runs. It wasn't pretty viewing, but the Dutch did a job and made the Irish bowling look what it was - ineffective.

Jacob Mulder ended up with match figures of 3-151 from 52 overs, and Singh, John Anderson and even Andrew Balbirnie at the end shared 32 overs in the match for two wickets.

Tim Murtagh struck in the first over to give Ireland the perfect start but Boyd Rankin never threatened to repeat his five-wicket haul from the first innings, while Peter Chase had a disappointing game, bowling 29 overs for one wicket which cost 141 runs.

Ireland's next match is against the West Indies at Stormont in 25 days' time and, although it is a return to white-ball action, the thought of putting this bowling attack up against even one of the weaker Full Members is a frightening thought.

Admittedly, the selectors were trying to mix experience and youth in this match, with the prize for winning the I-Cup no longer relevant, but Dockrell has been the in-form spinner this season and he was sorely missed. That Ireland could not beat a Dutch side barely at half strength only underlined the downturn in form this side has taken in the last couple of years.

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