Dutch delight as Ireland are haunted by past failings
There will be no quick fix to Ireland's woes in Twenty20 cricket despite losing the first match of the Tri-Series in Holland by just four runs.
It needed 22 runs off the 19th over to get Ireland within touching distance of the Netherlands' 144 but, still requiring 12 from the last for an unexpected victory, Somerset's Paul van Meekeren, the best bowler on view, restricted them to seven.
The loss of five wickets in the first 10 overs of the chase, with just 47 runs on the board, left Ireland a virtually impossible task and exposed all the old failings in the shortest format over the previous three years.
At one stage even Paul Stirling, Ireland's quickest scorer, played seven successive 'dot' balls and while new skipper Gary Wilson rightly pointed out that four of the first wickets fell to attacking shots, it was a case of them having to, just to break the shackles with the Dutch bowlers in the ascendancy.
To the Ireland bowlers' credit, after conceding 45 in the first five overs - James Shannon was the surprise choice to open the bowling - they bounced back with three wickets in the next two overs, albeit one of them a run-out, and despite a 64 runs partnership for the fifth wicket, three wickets fell in the 19th over and the hosts were bowled out with one ball unused.
Encouragingly, George Dockrell was back to somewhere near his best although it was Barry McCarthy and Simi Singh who each ended up with three wickets. Missing from the team was Boyd Rankin, with a hamstring niggle, but he is set to appear in the second match at the same venue this evening.
Stuart Thompson kept his place at the top of the batting order - he was in situ when Ireland last played T20 cricket 15 months ago - and with 15 off 11 balls he looked the right man for the job before he was caught behind going for another big hit.
William Porterfield, back in the ranks for the first time since 2008, was caught off a mistimed lofted drive at mid-on, Stirling was stumped and Wilson bottom edgde a cut to thirdman onto his stumps.
James Shannon, dropped second ball by the bowler, was caught off a skyer at mid-wicket and Stuart Poynter completed a run of single-figure scores by five consecutive batsmen to leave Ireland 63 for seven at the start of the 14th over.
The game seemed set for a tame finish but no one told Simi Singh. First, in partnership with George Dockrell - the pair who put on a world record List A seventh wicket stand of 215 last week for Leinster Lightning - and then with Barry McCarthy he plundered 57 off 29 balls, hitting Fred Klaassen for a six and two fours in the penultimate over, which was ended by a McCarthy maximum.
But new Dutch skipper Peter Seelaar still had one ace up his sleeve - Van Meekeren had conceded only one boundary in his first three overs and, with Ireland needing six off the last ball, a superb yorker kept Singh to a single and gave Netherlands their deserved victory.