Scotland keep up the pressure on Ireland
In spite of a much-improved effort from the Netherlands, Scotland ran out comfortable victors at Queensway today, beating the Dutch by five wickets to keeps tabs on championship leaders Ireland.
With rain in the air, that Patrick Sadler asked the Dutch to bat was perhaps inevitable - indeed, not one captain has told his openers to pad up this week - but certainly a decision vindicated, the skipper himself trapping James Gruijters (offering no shot) palpably lbw to the third ball of the match.
From there, and on a pitch offering a good deal of help to the bowlers, wickets would fall regularly - the highest partnership was only 24 - but not in clusters as Matthijs Luten, timing the ball sweetly through the off-side, held the Dutch innings together. Eventually, and thanks to the Scots missing more than half-a-dozen run-out chances as Rohit Shah and Werner Erkelens scrambled between the wickets, the Netherlands crept up to 141.
The most successful Scottish bowler was Andrew Chalmers, who - sending down the gentlest of away-swingers - had enticed a series of rash shots from the Dutch middle-order. Chalmers - as such bowlers need - was also backed up by some excellent catching in the ring and sharp work behind the stumps from Matt Cross, who might well claim the wicket the Luten, only slightly lifting the back foot, as his own.
Scottish captain Sadler also picked up three - including opposite number Dennis Coster, caught at mid-off off the leading edge - while Peter Ross, coming down the steep hill at the Railway End, went for just the twenty in his ten overs and - admirably for a bowler new to this ground and that end - didn't overstep once.
In reply, Scotland got off to a flier, with width punished clinically and decent bounce in the Derriaghy pitch allowing the batsmen to get under anything short. Even as the pace slackened the run rate never fell much beneath five an over, and as many as seventeen overs were left unused when the target was reached.
In the end, it might have been even more comfortable, for the Scots might ask themselves how many of the five wickets claimed by the Dutch had been given away: yes, Freddie Coleman was run out by an excellent piece of fielding by Sebastian Braat at cover, but Matt Cross hooked compulsively, Anjun Luthra didn't pick up that James Gruijters's stock ball is the googly, Aman Bailwal guided a long-hop straight to extra, while Tom McBride - who had maturely anchored the Scottish innings with 39 - drove uppishly against VB Tewarie.
Nevertheless, the Dutch will take heart from today's performance: even if they chose not to take on the 35-yard straight boundaries, their batsmen's feet moved better as the Irish grass pitches became more familiar; several sharp chances - van Meekeren's in particular - were held in the field, while - despite his unflattering analysis - Braat's hostile and entertaining second spell showed this is not a team to give in easily.
* We apologise for the absence of ball-by-ball coverage of today's match, wireless network connections proving unreliable throughout the day.