IT was in January 2017 that Ireland last won back to back T20 internationals and Netherlands extended that sequence for at least another month after their six wickets victory at Malahide yesterday.

An unbeaten 91 by Tom Cooper saw the Dutch past Ireland’s 181-7 with five balls to spare. But Ireland know they should have made it a much tougher chase for their victors.

After 12 overs, Ireland has 128 on the board but the third wicket of Andrew Balbirnie was to prove decisive. In the remaining eight overs, the run rate came down to just eight an over and that was thanks to Harry Tector and Lorcan Tucker scoring 21 from the final two overs.

While Tector, in only his second international, was hitting four boundaries from 16 balls, only one came at the other end from 30 deliveries.

Captain Gary Wilson admitted they were probably around 10 runs below par and although Mark Adair took a wicket with the first ball of the Dutch innings, Cooper and Max O’Dowd put on 144 for the second wicket inside 15 overs, equalling Netherlands’ record partnership.

George Dockrell, replacing Shane Getkate in one of two changes to the team which beat Scotland on Tuesday, set up an interesting finish with two wickets in three balls and added the wicket of captain Pieter Seelaar in the 18th over with still 23 needed.

But Cooper hit the last ball of the over for four and new batsman Scott Edwards then hit Stuart Thompson for three successive fours in the penultimate over to settle the points, which still leaves Ireland top of the table but only on net run rate from the Dutch, who play their final game against Scotland today.

Ireland have the day off before facing the Scots in the final game of the series tomorrow and are almost certain to be without Paul Stirling who again played no part yesterday because of a calf strain.

Gareth Delany, after his maiden half century on Tuesday, was first out yesterday, pulling straight to deep square, Kevin O’Brien again looked good, hitting three fours and two sixes in his 16 balls but it was Andrew Balbirnie (two fours and three sixes) and Tector (six fours and two sixes) who looked the class acts, their partnership full of improvised strokes, worth 79 in just 45 balls.

But after Balbirnie was caught at fine leg, Wilson, playing his 100th T20 game for Ireland, used up 14 balls scoring eight, Mark Adair was bowled fourth ball and it was left to Tucker to hit that solitary boundary in the final over.

Adair, still easing back to full fitness bowled only two overs and Thompson, having conceded 19 off his third over, was the surprise choice for the 19th over. Garth Delany was hit for four sixes and Craig Young, in for Boyd Rankin, conceded two runs in his second over and 32 off his other two. David Delany again impressed and did everything but take a wicket.