Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Irish up and running in race to make World Cup


By Ian Callender

An 11th straight win, by 93 runs, from 11 players at the top of their game gave Ireland the perfect start in their quest to reach a fourth successive World Cup.

Netherlands, the ‘dangerous third seeds’ in Group A, were swept aside in contemptuous fashion yesterday by a bowling attack which simply carried on where they had left off in last week’s warm-up game.

It may have been a different city on a ground where the Dutch had impressed in their two pre-tournament matches, but despite everything going against them from the toss to a rain delay at the start of the Dutch reply, in this mood this Ireland side is just unstoppable.

Andrew Balbirnie was named man of the match — the easy choice because he top scored with 68 — but Niall O’Brien’s 49 was the better innings and the way William Porterfield and Paul Stirling saw off the new ball after a 9.30 start in overcast conditions also deserved the highest praise.

And then there were the bowlers. Tim Murtagh struck with the third ball of the innings and again in his fourth over, Barry McCarthy was hit for two fours in his second over but came back to claim the big wicket of giant left hander Ben Cooper, and even when Porterfield turned to spin in the 15th over, Ireland immediately picked up their fourth wicket although George Dockrell couldn’t take the credit, captain Peter Borren run out by a direct hit from Kevin O’Brien.

Ryan ten Doeschate was the prize scalp and O’Brien’s call into the attack, on his 34th birthday, accounted for him in his third over to leave the Dutch reeling on 63 for five — and Boyd Rankin, Ireland’s best bowler was still waiting for his first wicket of the day.

That duly arrived in the first over of his second spell, with an attempted hook by former South Africa Test star Roelf van der Merwe ending up in the hands of Ed Joyce at fine leg.

There was no way for the Oranjemen after that and despite a few lusty blows from Tim van der Gugten at the end, including back to back sixes off Dockrell, it was all over with more

than eight overs and 93 runs to spare.

Ireland’s target at the start of the day, after losing the toss, on a slow pitch and slower crumbly outfield was 250 but after the openers had put on a super-responsible 59 in 14 overs (Stirling faced 39 balls for his 20) and Balbirnie and Niall O’Brien added another 101 for the fourth wicket, they had 220 on the board with six wickets and seven overs left.

The Dutch then enjoyed their best period of the game, picking up three wickets and restricting Ireland to another 48 runs, but the damage had already been done by O’Brien who hit two sixes and five fours in his 35-ball innings.

The fact that Ed Joyce’s 32 is only a footnote to this innings, only emphasised Ireland’s dominance. Six more wins and that World Cup place is a certainty.

Belfast Telegraph

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