The International Cricket Conference (ICC) decided early in the year to start developing time cricket of three-day duration among the stronger Associate Members. About time too! The method devised was to divide the World into four areas. The Winners from each area would come together in one location to play semi-finals and a final. The term used for the Tournament is to be "Intercontinental Trophy".
Originally the European Zone consisted of Ireland, Scotland and Holland. Denmark objected to Ireland being placed ahead of them as they finished ahead of Ireland in the 2001 ICC Trophy, although Ireland had beaten Denmark in the 2002 European Cup. ICC decided on a play-off, a series of three matches in four days, which, somewhat incongruously, will be played in matches of 50 overs per side with the Duckworth-Lewis method used to decide each match's winner, if necessary. If one country won the first two matches the third would not be played. Following a toss it was determined that the matches would be played in Ireland.
ICC asked each country to nominate 25 players in advance so that eligibility could be checked. Ireland did this. The only player not eligible, who had played in 2003, was Gerald Dros. When it got down to picking 13, Ireland selected nine who had played against Herts. John Mooney, who was at Herts but did not play, made up 10. O'Brien was now available after a finger injury and was released by Kent. He replaced Bushe as wicket-keeper. The 13 was made up by recalling Armstrong and Coetzee. Then there was a spate of injuries involving the Mooney brothers and Gillespie. In came Dominic Joyce and Kevin O'Brien (Railway Union), who, if he played, would be a new capped fast bowler. The panel was now 12 in number. Then there was a piece of good news. McCoubrey's season with Essex was over so he was drafted in. On the morning of the match Joyce and Kevin O'Brien were left out of the 13, although Joyce got on to the field as a substitute and he effected a wonderful run-out.
The Denmark team for this match had certainly five, and possibly six players, who had played against Ireland at Stormont in 2002 in the European Championships. These were Klokker, Lund, Aftab Ahmed, T Hansen and Chawla. The sixth may have been U Farooq who may be the same as O Farooq in the 2002 match. Denmark also had a new captain in S Vestergaard replacing M Hedegaard of 2002. The matches were sponsored by Viking to the tune of Euro 3000. The ICC appointed umpires from Germany and Scotland. The match referee was David Dukes, who had a similar role in the 2002 European Cup in Northern Ireland.
Singh and Klokker began to the bowling of McCoubrey and Eagleson. The pitch was slow with a slight touch of green and moisture. The first incident was a difficult slip catch to Molins, the only slip. He dived to his right and attempted to catch two-handed. Singh was the batsman, McCoubrey the bowler, and the score was eight. After this both batsmen hit one four each. Then both got out within 16 balls to McCoubrey's bowling. Singh hit a four to extra cover in the ninth over. Next ball he tried to pull, when the ball was too far up, and also kept low and it bowled him. 36-1-21. Klokker hit McCoubrey for four to wide mid-off in the 12th over. Off the last ball of the over Klokker got a thin nick on a ball that moved away a little and was caught by O'Brien. 43-2-17.
Ahmed joined Lund and, by now, the sun had gone in. Rain looked imminent but it did not come until after over 36. Botha came on for McCoubrey, two for 27 in six overs, for the 13th over and Ahmed hit the first and fifth balls for fours to extra cover, one on the ground and one in the air. 54 was up at the end of this over. Botha steadied down after this and Armstrong, a strange choice, came on for Eagleson for the 16th over. His first over yielded nine runs but he, too, improved and bowled five overs for 22. Lund hit fours in three successive overs, the last off the first over of spin, bowled by White.
After this over the halfway, 25 overs, stage had arrived and 102 was up. McCallan was on for the 26th over. He and White bowled in tandem until 43 overs were bowled. The 26th and 27th overs were both maidens. Then Ahmed, with more of the strike, hit boundaries in four successive overs. The 30 overs score was 123 for two so a score of 250 plus was on the cards unless wickets were taken. They were!
Ahmed went to 50 in 68 balls when the score was 136 in the 33rd over but was out in the 34th. He swept McCallan to deep square leg where White took a good catch. 140-3-53. The stand had put on 97 in 22½ overs with Ahmed dominating the strike. In came J Hansen to join Lund who was now only 33 after 73 balls. This pair went slowly. Only 18 runs were put on between overs 30 and 35. The threatened rain came after over 36 with the score at 142 for three. The rain lasted 43 minutes but no overs were to be subtracted unless one hour was lost. At this stage the Duckworth-Lewis method predicted a 50 over score of 214 for Denmark should their innings have to terminate at the 36 overs mark. This took into account only three wickets were down and that Denmark has scored four runs per over. Duckworth-Lewis allowed Denmark five runs per over in the remaining 14 overs. This was pretty accurate as, when play resumed, Denmark reached 224 in 50 overs.
On resumption 17 were added in four overs so that the 40 overs score was 162 (it had been 158 in 38), and only 39 had come from overs 30 to 40. Then J Hansen attacked and got out. He hit White over long-on for six and took seven in McCallan's next over. In this over Lund went to 50 in 95 balls at 178 and, off its last ball, Hansen hit a skier to wide mid-on where Botha took a fine catch running away from the pitch with the ball coming over his shoulder. 178-4-19. This was at the end of over 42. Now wickets began to fall quickly as Denmark tried to increase the rate.
The left-handed Lambert had come in. Botha came on for McCallan (two for 39 in nine overs) and his fourth ball brought about a run out. Lambert hit a ball to Morgan at deep mid-on. A second run was attempted but a fine throw to Botha ran out Lund. 186-5-52. McCoubrey replaced White for over 44 and Joyce came out to field for Eagleson. McCoubrey's third ball induced a snick to the keeper from Lambert. 191-6-10. Vestergaard, the captain, and T.Hansen were now together. The 45 over score was 194. Then came another run out in over 46, bowled by Botha. Vestergaard hit to wide deep mid-wicket, an easy single. A second run was called and Joyce's long accurate throw to the keeper ran Vestergaard out. 200-7-4.
Borchersen joined T Hansen who was saved a third run out in over 47 when Joyce's throw to the keeper was not accurate enough. No matter, Borchersen was bowled swinging at Botha in over 48. 208-8-3. The 49th over gave up seven runs and Chawla's wicket off McCoubrey's last ball, clean bowled to give McCoubrey, bowling excellently, four for 41 in nine overs, easily the best of the six bowlers. 215-9-5. Farooq and Hansen got nine in the last over. Morgan was unlucky on the boundary. He brought off a diving stop but his trailing leg kicked the ball over the boundary. Denmark ran brilliantly between the wickets and some 90 of their runs came in singles run at great speed. Because of the rain interruption only 30 minutes were allowed for lunch.
At 3:30 p.m. Molins and Bray set off for Ireland. The first over was bowled by Vestergaard. Molins hit his first ball for a mid-wicket four. He nibbled, as he is wont to do, at the fifth ball and was caught by wicket-keeper Klokker. 4-1-4. Botha joined Bray. Denmark's other opening bowler was T Hansen, medium left-arm over. He bowled a maiden to Bray. Singles followed and the score was only 10 after five overs. Then Botha attacked Hansen's third over and took three fours, to cover's right from a full toss, then to cover's left and the final one was through extra cover. The over cost 15. Botha continued the assault in Vestergaard's next over. Off successive balls he struck a lovely drive past mid-off and then hit a full toss to wide mid-off. Borchersen, right arm medium, replaced Hansen and Bray played another maiden. Botha resumed his attack in Vestergaard's fifth and last over. This time there were three successive fours, a drive through extra cover, a late cut and an on-drive. This made Botha 36 to Bray's four! A single brought up 50 in the 10th over, 40 coming in the last five.
Lambert, medium left-arm over, was the fourth bowler. Bray took 10 off his first over and Botha got two more fours, a late cut and an off drive, in Borchersen's third over. Lambert was given only two overs, which went for 16 runs, and a fifth bowler, Farooq, slow left arm, was tried. With a four Botha reached 53 when the score was 89 in over 15 from only 35 balls. It was his 11th four! However, after 17 overs, with the score on 90 for one, more rain held up play for 27 minutes. As the rain breaks were now more than one hour in aggregate a single over was subtracted from Ireland's innings. The Duckworth-Lewis method set Ireland's target at 222 in 49 overs. For a match to be established Denmark must bowl 25 overs. Already Ireland had gone ahead of the required total after 25 overs under the Duckworth-Lewis method.
When play resumed a neat clip by Bray to the backward square boundary on the off side off Borchersen brought up 100 in over 20. Farooq bowled a maiden to Bray in over 22, the third such played by Bray. Next over he was dropped by the only slip diving to his left. At this point Bray was 27, the score 108. The 25 over score was 127. Now 95 were required in 24 overs, a rate of four runs per over, but five runs per over had been achieved so far.
After over 27, when the score was 134, two new bowlers appeared, Chawla, bowling leg spin, and Ahmed, bowling medium pace. The move worked. Botha, moving towards a second successive century, was out in Chawla's third over, the 31st. He edged a sweep and was caught at backward square-leg. Botha's 88 came from only 76 balls with 14 fours. 151-2-88. This stand for the second wicket, 147 runs, was the second highest achieved in Ireland. O'Brien came in and was lucky not to be bowled at once as he drove and missed with his head up. His stand with Bray put on 41 runs in nine overs of which O'Brien made seven.
Bray cut loose. He got to 50 in over 33 and at 157, and off 111 balls. He had played second fiddle very well to Botha who had made 88 to Bray's 44 in the stand. Bray hooked Ahmed for a six in over 34 and swept a four in the next over. The opening bowlers, Vestergaard and Hansen, returned. Bray's last scoring shot was a four to wide mid-wicket. In the next over, bowled by Hansen, the 40th, Bray hooked again and was caught low on the square leg boundary. 192-3-77. Bray faced 135 balls out of 237 bowled with a six and seven fours.
White joined O'Brien with 30 required in just over nine overs. White drove his third ball to the extra cover boundary. He hit another four to wide long-on off a no-ball in over 44. He finished the match with a four to mid-wicket with the first ball of the 46th over. This made Ireland's score 225, one more than Denmark, and so a win by seven wickets. Technically the win was by "The Duckworth-Lewis Method" as 222 was the winning target. You can have your choice on the result! This was Ireland's eighth successive win.
Ralph Coetzee, since his debut early in the year against ECB at Malahide, has now played seven won seven. These were not successive matches as he missed the match against Herts. Seven wins in a row at the start of a career is a new record by as many as three matches. Eoin Morgan will start 2004 on five wins in successive Irish matches if he plays in the second game tomorrow against Denmark and Ireland win.
The "purest" previous record was John Elder who, in 1973, won his first four matches and they were successive matches played by Ireland. G.M.Crothers, (1931-35), also won his first four matches but these were not successive matches played by Ireland. The best non-losing start by debutant is nine matches of which there are three:-
T Harpur (1974-81) D-D-D-D-W-W-D-D-D. These were not successive Irish matches
DW Harrison (1978-80) W-D-W-W-D-W-D-W-D These were not successive Irish matches
RI Johnston (1979-80) D-D-W-W-D-W-D-W-D These were successive Irish matches
The best succession of wins is 10, a record held in mid-career by Paul McCrum (1996-97).
The best run of matches without defeat is 17, a record held by Jack Short in mid career (1977 to 80). These were D-W-D-D-D-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-D-W-D-W-D.
The best run of matches as captain without defeat is 16, a record held by Dermott Monteith in mid career (1977-80) and all 16 were successive matches played by Ireland. These went W-D-D-D-W-W-D-D-D-W-W-D-W-D-W-D.
The longest career without defeat is seven matches, a record held by three players:-
R.I.Gill (1947-51) All were draws but not successive matches played by Ireland.
A.V.Smith (1977-79) D-W-D-W-D-D-D. not successive matches played by Ireland.
E.Bushe (1979-80) W-D-W-D-W-D-D. not successive matches played by Ireland.
Consider at the other end of the scale, the unfortunate Tom McCloy (1951-65) who played 30 matches of a possible 54 and won only one, the 25th match he played!