Late drama seals draw needed for Ireland's ticket to world cup down under
Let the celebrations begin. Ireland have confirmed their place in the ICC World Cup finals with two matches to spare, abeit not in the way anyone could have predicted.
They needed only a point to make sure of topping the eight-team qualifying group and they got it courtesy of a dramatic tie, after Michael Rippon hit the last ball of the match to keep alive the Netherlands' hopes of filling the second automatic promotion slot.
John Mooney was given the last over with the Dutch needing 13 to reach their victory target of 269 with two wickets left.
Three slow bouncers, the second of which brought a run-out, should have led to the formality of an Ireland victory but Mooney could not stop himself and the same ball wasn't so successful for the remainder of the over.
The fourth ball was pulled to long-on for two, the next slapped over mid-off for four leaving Rippon with the chance to tie the scores with a last-ball six.
He didn't disappoint the home support and with a perfect contact, which National Coach big Phil Simmons later described as a freakish shot, the ball sailed over the long-on boundary to allow both teams to celebrate.
Mooney admitted he was the one disappointed Irishman.
He said: "It was a strategic plan that we would bowl the last over from that end so that they would be hitting to the big boundary. I'm desperately disappointed.
"I want to win games of cricket not tie games, and if they only needed one and didn't get it I would be happy, but they needed six so it was disappointing for me personally.
"But as a team we have been brilliant in this tournament, we have now won the tournament and we are going to the World Cup.
"I just hope my form continues and I am involved for a third time.
"But I'm taking nothing for granted because there are some great kids coming through.
"They played in the Intercontinental Cup match last week, which we won in three days, and they would walk into any other Associate side.
"So nobody's place is safe and I'm looking no further than the final two qualifying games against Scotland in Belfast in September."
The disappointment faded quickly as a long night got under way in Amsterdam. Ireland had achieved their objective – not of qualifying for the finals, that was the bare minimum – but finishing top of the group.
That they did after six of the seven rounds of matches underlined their dominance of the tournament and although they could not win it in style, it was the culmination of two years' hard work.
Only Kenya have beaten them in 12 matches, nine of which have been won, and without playing at their best in Holland this week they have earned the right to play alongside the elite in Australia and New Zealand in early 2015.
Congratulatory messages arrived within a hour of the game's end from the Ireland president and Minister of the Sport and there was no prouder man than Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom.
"It's fabulous for our sponsors RSA and the players but most importantly for every single Irish cricket fan. This result gives up a full 18 months build-up to our most important high-profile opportunity to get the brand of cricket out to the general public and the commercial opportunities," said Deutrom.
"It's demonstrated just how far we are ahead of the rest of the associates and we now benchmark ourselves against the Full Members rather than our fellow Associates."
It must be said that if it was a Full Member side which was batting second yesterday the result – much like Pakistan in May – would have been different because this was about getting the job done rather than an overwhelming performance.
William Porterfield, after winning another toss, and Paul Stirling got Ireland off to the perfect start with 73 inside 14 overs and although both were dismissed in the space of five overs, Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien maintained the momentum and added 39 in the five powerplay overs.
But for the second game in a row, Ireland were unable to kick on, scoring just 60 runs in the last 10 overs with Trent Johnston denying Joyce a possible century by turning down a second run off the penultimate ball. Joyce finished 96 not out.
The bowling in the words of Simmons was "not as disciplined as we usually are" with too many four-balls, although this side has the happy knack of taking wickets at vital times and despite five Dutch batsmen reaching 35, not one made 50.
It is a knack which has got Ireland to the World Cup finals for a third successive time and every one of the Full Members will show them the utmost respect Down Under.