Ireland beat Netherlands in Pretoria warm-up
Ireland continued their impressive build-up to next month's World Cup qualifying tournament with another confidence-boosting victory, this time over their first group opponents in Zimbabwe.
Netherlands, who will get one-day international status after the tournament, are the dangerous third seeds in Group A behind West Indies and Ireland but despite scoring 264-7 in yesterday's match at the Groenkloof Oval in Pretoria, the Irish passed the total for the loss of five wickets with 33 balls to spare.
Not too much will be read into the result - both teams used 12 players and Ryan ten Doeschate, the Netherlands' star player was not involved - but encouragingly for Ireland two of the batsmen who missed out in Thursday's opening game in South Africa were the main scorers.
Andrew Balbirnie fell just three short of his century and, even more impressively, Gary Wilson ran out of runs, rather than time, dismissed for 89 with just four needed for victory.
Wilson, promoted to No 5, above Kevin O'Brien who got his eye in with a whirlwind 60 against the South African franchise team and in the absence of that game's century-maker, Paul Stirling, played one of his best innings in an Ireland shirt.
The Civil Service North member faced just 64 balls and hit nine fours and five sixes as he scored 89 of the 121 runs when he was in the middle, with a set Balbirnie and O'Brien at the other end. Wilson played just 27 'dot balls' as Ireland made light of what appeared a daunting total at halfway.
However, the bowlers deserve huge credit because the Dutch were on course for a total nearer 300 when Ben Cooper and Roelof Van der Merwe were together. Indeed, they had reached 182 for four in the 39th over when Boyd Rankin struck for the third time to dismiss Cooper for 73 and although van der Merwe, the former South Africa international, hit 62 from 53 balls, the run charge never got out of control. As it turned out, Ireland would probably have chased down 300 anyway against a Netherlands attack which was getting the cobwebs out of their system in what was their first match year.
In contrast, this was Ireland's sixth game in 2018 and they still have four more games before they meet the Dutch in earnest to get even more batsmen and bowlers into form.
William Porterfield was leg before to van der Merwe for 22, although no-one is ever too worried about a lack of runs for the captain as he could as easily come out an score a century next time and it's only four innings since he hit 139 against UAE.
The decision to open with Niall O'Brien didn't come off as he was caught in the fourth over for nine, while Ed Joyce took a back seat in the third wicket stand of 76 with the impressive Balbirnie.
After Porterfield won the toss, he was determined to just use his five front line bowlers with Rankin again a class above the rest, finishing with four for 38. Tim Murtagh (1-62), Peter Chase (0-62) and Andy McBrine bore the brunt of the Dutch big-hitting but while George Dockrell (0-42) may have finished without a wicket, his economy rate was just what his captain ordered.
Rankin, has been a county player for 12 years but last night he heaped praise on Ireland bowling coach Rob Cassell.
"He's been great for all the bowlers. He keeps things simple, which I like, and he's up there with one of the best I've worked with," said Rankin.
The squad return to action tomorrow against Scotland.
Scores: Netherlands XII 264-7 (50 overs, B Cooper 73, R van der Merwe 62, W Baresi 41; B Rankin 4-38, A McBrine 2-57) Ireland XII 265-5 (44.3 overs, A Balbirnie 97, G Wilson 89, E Joyce 25, W Porterfield 22). Ireland XII won by 5 wickets.
• England beat New Zealand by two runs but failed to reach the Twenty20 tri-series final against Australia.
Captain Eoin Morgan hit 80 not out to help England post 194-7, ensuring they needed to restrict New Zealand to less than 175 to go through on net run rate.
The hosts surged past that mark thanks to Colin Munro's 57 from 21 balls and Martin Guptill's 62 off 47 at Hamilton.