Ireland went to The Hague in Holland in mid July to defend the European Championship won in Copenhagen in 1996. The format had changed. Now the better teams were in one section - Ireland, England (E.C.B. XI), Scotland, Holland and Demark all playing each other with the top two playing off a final. Third and fourth placed teams would also play off. The last team would play off with the top team in the weaker section. In this latter were Gibraltar, Italy, Israel and France (who had become an ICC Associate Member in June 1998). Also invited was Germany, the next best team in Europe.
13 players were allowed. Dunlop, Smyth, McCallan, Joyce and Gillespie were automatic batting choices. To these were added Jason Molins, now free having got his Blue at Oxford, and Carson. To bowl were Davy, Cooke, Eagleson, Dwyer with Heasley as an all rounder. Rutherford was to keep wicket. The latter could not travel and Bushe replaced him. Then Heasley cried off - a great loss. P. McCrum was to replace him but could not do so. M.Olphert was tried, a strange choice as he is a batsman. Eventually Greg Molins completed the party. So rapid is the recent turnover among Irish players that only three of the 13 who won the European Cup in Denmark in 1996 survived to make this 1998 defense. They are Dunlop, Eagleson and McCallan. To get used to conditions the team went to Holland on Tuesday, July 14th with the first match -v- E.C.B. (English -Cricket Board) on Saturday, July 18th.
On the morning of the match at Quick C.C. the team was faced with a 'carpet pitch' (unknown beforehand) rather than the cocoanut matting on shale for which they had prepared. It was very fast and bouncy. Ireland left out G. Molins and Carson. E.C.B. did not have their best team as the tournament covered two week-ends and some players contracted to Clubs could not come. The match was most exciting and very similar to the Triple Crown match two weeks previously. Ireland struggled to 203 for five, making 30 vital runs in the last three overs. England reached 127 for two in the 34th over, needing a run a ball. They failed by 10 runs in a magnificent Irish fight back.
Ireland won the toss and batted on a sunny day with a breeze. At 11.30 a.m. McCallan and Joyce began to Usher, a tall fast bowler, and Leather at slightly less pace. The start was necessarily slow to get used to the bounce and was not helped by McCallan being hit "amid-ships" early on. Only nine was on the board after seven overs. Then Joyce took 10 off Leather in the eighth over. At 24, in the 11th, Joyce glanced Usher too fine and was caught at the wicket. 24-1-15. Smyth came in and was in fine form. Runs came mostly from drives at half-volleys. Love (medium) and Rutherford (medium out swing) came on and runs came a little quicker.
After 16 overs the score was 48. The first ball of the 27th over saw McCallan nibbling badly at Rutherford and he, too, was caught at the wicket. 48-2-17. 50 came in this over with Gillespie in. Scoring slowed again. Crozier, a tall off-spinner, came on for over 25 and at the half way mark the score was 72 for two. The pace increased again when Smyth began to sweep the off-spinner for boundaries. The 50 stand and 100 came in over 31. Smyth reached an excellent 50 (5x4) at 109 in the 33rd over. In the same over he lost Gillespie who swept at the off-spinner and lobbed a gentle catch to short fine leg. 109-3-12. Of the 61 stand Gillespie made but 12 in 39 balls but it was a valuable innings.
Worse followed in Crozier's next over. Smyth cut leaning back and lobbed a catch to the only slip. His 52 came off 84 balls and he was playing really well. 113 for four. Dunlop joined Molins in over 35. By over 40 the score was 130 and Foster (sixth bowler) was now bowling with Crozier. In the next five overs 28 were scored making the score 158. The last five overs brought 45. Eight came in over 46 with Dunlop hitting Foster for a six over long on. The ball was lost and there was a long delay in finding a suitable replacement. Usher returned for over 47 and got Molins with his first ball. He swayed back to cut and snicked to the wicket-keeper. He made 30 and the stand was worth 53.
With Cooke in seven came off the over and seven also off over 47. Over 48 brought another seven runs. Usher's next over went for 12 with Cooke hitting two fours. The last over (Foster) brought 11 runs and saw Dunlop dropped at mid-on. The last ball was sliced by Dunlop over the wicket-keeper for four. His 35 not out off 48 balls, with a six and two fours elevated his season's average to 91. Cooke's 14 off 12 balls was also very valuable. The English fielding and throwing were very good and saved a lot of runs although Ireland's running could be criticised. Only Love among England's bowlers bowled 10 overs (for 30 runs), Usher had two for 34 in nine and Crozier two for 36, also in nine.
R Robinson and Roberts began slowly for England with the latter fortunate to survive an aerial hook in Eagleson's second over. The score was 20 in the seventh over when Robinson lofted Davy to deep mid-off. 20-1-9. In the 10th over Roberts popped a lifter up to point but out of the reach of the three converging fielders. The second wicket, the left handed Gaywood, fell at 31 in the 12th over. He drove Eagleson uppishly to mid-on where Cooke jumped to his right, knocked the ball up, and caught it as it fell. 31-2-3. There ended Ireland's success for a long time. The next wicket did not fall until 22 overs later and 96 runs had been put on. McCallan came on for the 13th over and bowled six overs for 21. Dwyer came on at 36 for the 16th over. Foster was lucky twice. A snick bounced over Bushe and then Dwyer's arm ball beat the leg stump and the keeper. Foster hit a six over mid-wicket off McCallan to bring up 50 in over 21. Roberts snicked Dwyer between his legs and the leg stump for four, and then pulled him for six over mid-wicket. Dwyer went off after six overs for 23. The second 50 took nine overs - 102 being up after 30 overs, exactly half the runs required.
McCallan returned for over 32 and was hit for six over square leg to give Roberts 50 out of 114. In McCallan's next over Roberts hit another six over square leg and was out next ball. He pulled a drive to mid-wicket and was caught. 127-3-57. Roberts hit three sixes in a 108 ball innings. Now 99 balls were left to score 77. Dwyer was brought back and took a wicket at once - Halsall was caught at the wicket driving. 133-4-0. After over 38 the score was 140. Now 64 were needed in 72 balls. Then Dwyer struck again after Foster reached 50 of 135 in over 37. At 141, in over 39, Leather advanced to Dwyer, missed and was stumped. 141-5-0.
150 was up in over 41. Dwyer finished his 10 overs (two for 38) and Cooke and Davy bowled the last nine overs. Davy gave up nine in the 43rd but wickets fell in the next two overs. Waterton nibbled at Cooke and was caught at the wicket and Usher met a similar fate swinging at Davy. With five overs left 35 were needed. Only seven runs came in the next two overs. 28 were now required in three overs. The 48th over by Cooke was crucial. 12 runs came off five legal balls with fours by Foster to backward square leg and third man. At that point 13 balls remained to get 17 with Foster on 84. Then that last ball of Cooke's over dismissed Foster. He mistimed an off drive and Dunlop took a good runing catch at long off. 187-8-84. Foster faced 96 balls and must have rued his dismissal when a win was so near.
Davy than bowled a fine over for three singles to Rutherford and Crozier. 13 were needed when Rutherford faced Cooke for the last over. He wafted the first ball to fine leg for four. Nine needed in five balls. A snick to third man followed. Eight needed from four. The next was a wide on which a single was run. Now seven off four. A bye was then run to the wicket-keeper. Six off three. The fourth ball produced a leg bye. Five off two. Rutherford struck the fifth to deep square leg and tried to run two but was out by a distance when Gillespie threw accurately. Love faced the last ball with four needed. He tried to pull but only knocked it in front of him for one run.
Ireland had won a famous victory by two runs. All the bowlers did well at various times. Dunlop was Man-of-the-Match (a travelling clock on a silver coloured base) for his runs and captaincy.