Which this match Ireland sealed the series, 2-0, and qualified to play in the European Zone of the Intercontinental Cup in 2004 against Holland and against Scotland, one match against each, one home and one away.
This match was really a non-event. Ireland made 363 for five, the 12th highest score ever and only two matches after 387 for four against Hertfordshire, their fifth highest score ever. 363 was the highest score at home since Ireland scored 371 for six against Free Foresters at Rathmines in 1957 in 94.4 overs.
Ireland brought in Dom Joyce instead of Coetzee. This was said to be for speed of foot in the restricted fielding area so good was Denmark's short running the previous day, Joyce being the fleetest of foot in the Irish panel. Eoin Morgan achieved his fifth successive victory since his debut in August. Denmark dropped TM Hansen and Borchersen and brought in C Pedersen and HS Hansen, probably to strengthen the bowling. Both of these players played against Ireland in 2002.
The day was sunny with a slight crosswind. The pitch was hard but had a lot of green. When Ireland decided to bat, on winning the toss, there was much headshaking in view of yesterday's success in fielding first and the green pitch. The doubters were wrong as a score of 363 for four indicated, and stands for the first and second wickets of 160 and 165 respectively. The non-event was brought about by Denmark making no effort to go for the runs, the rate required being more than seven per over. In 20 overs they were 74 for three, at 30 112 for four and after 40 154 for six.
Molins and Bray were into their stride at once against Vestergaard and H Hansen. Molins flicked a four in the first over while Bray hit two off-side drives for fours off Hansen. Molins hit three off-side fours in Vestergaard's third over while Bray's first four scoring strokes were all boundaries. Bray, when 19, had a life in over nine when the total was 46. This was a diving chance at cover off Vestergaard. Three fours in over 10 moved the score from 47 to 60 and 12 fours had been hit, Molins seven and Bray five.
Ahmed replaced Vestergaard, who had bowled six overs for 35, and Farooq came on for Hansen, who had bowled seven overs for 40. These changes stemmed the fours for four overs, those numbered 14 to 17. However, a Molins four in over 18 took him to 51 and the score to exactly 100. Molins had faced 57 balls and his 51 contained no less than 10 fours. The 20 over score was 111. Another double change brought on leg spinner Chawla, and off spinner Pedersen. In the latter's first over, the 23rd, Bray with a four to fine leg went to 51 out of 134. He had faced 65 balls and hit eight fours.
Molins hit a Chawla full toss for a six over mid-wicket. It was his last boundary shot. Chawla dropped a caught and bowled chance when Molins was 80. It was a lobbed chance low to the bowlers right. The miss was not expensive and Chawla made amends. Two fours by Bray brought up 150 in over 27. Then, at 160, in over 28, Molins advanced to Chawla, was not at the pitch, and lobbed the ball back to the bowler. 160-1-85. He faced 88 balls, hit a six and 12 fours, with powerful strokes. In two of the last three matches Molins had made scores of 84 and 85 and so had missed three centuries in one season by very little. This was the second Molins/Bray stand in 2003 for the first wicket that was over 100.
Botha joined Bray and the pace increased. In 17 overs the second wicket pair put on 165, of which Botha made 86 and Bray 75. Botha began with two fours to backward point and a square cut to bring the 30 overs score to 178. He continued in this vein so that when he got to 40 he had hit eight fours and 200 was up in over 34. For over 35 Lambert, medium left-arm over, came on for Pedersen and 12 runs came in this over. In Lambert's next over, the 37th, Bray, with a single, went to his first century for Ireland in his 14th International innings. He faced 104 balls in 135 minutes and scored 15 fours. In his 14 innings he exceeded 60 four times. His top score in the other 10 innings was 18!
It was also from Lambert's bowling, in the 39th over, that Botha went to 50 and brought up 250. Botha faced only 33 balls and had only been at the wicket for 37 minutes. He had hit nine fours, mostly drives. The 40 overs score was 270. Sensing a huge score both players now cut loose against Lambert and Chawla. The latter bowled out his 10 overs for 78 runs. After reaching his century Bray hit seven more fours in carrying his score to 143, making 21 fours in all. He was in for 166 minutes and faced 131 balls.
Vestergaard returned for over 43 in which the 300 came up. Hansen bowled over 44 in which Bray, then 139, was dropped at mid-wicket when the score was 308. This over finished with a pick-up six to long leg by Botha. Next over Botha hit a straight six and lost Bray. For a while it had seemed, for the second time in seven years, that Malahide Cricket Club might see a score of 150 or more by an Irish player. Dunlop got 148 against the MCC in 1996 and, now, Bray got out for 143. If either had succeeded in getting to 150 it would have been only the second score of 150 or more scored by an Irish player in Ireland. There have been three scored away. The first, and only other, score of 150 in Ireland was Dan Comyn's 157 against I Zingari at Phoenix Cricket Club in 1896. Comyn was Daniel O'Connell's grandson!
To get back to the story! Bray, in over 45, bowled by Vestergaard, was caught at mid-wicket, a good low two-handed catch by Lambert running in. 325-2-143. The second wicket stand of 165 with Botha came in only 17 overs, a rate of very little short of 10 runs per over. It was this pair's third 100 plus stand for the second wicket in 2003, a feat no pair had previously achieved even over several years. Armstrong came and went after facing two balls. He was stumped by Klokker off Hansen, the ball rebounding off the keeper's pads. 327-3-0. One over later Botha, seeking his second century of 2003, was out for 89. He had faced only 54 balls with two sixes and 12 fours. He skied Vestergaard to extra-cover. 331-4-89. Botha's last five innings have been 55-32-139-88-89.
White and O'Brien put on 18 in 13 balls. Then White was out to the last ball of the 49th over. He, too, skied Vestergaard to extra cover. 349-5-7. McCallan and O'Brien managed 14 off the 50th over, bowled by Ahmed, because Hansen had bowled his full 10 overs. McCallan hit two fours and O'Brien one. Ireland's 363 was only the fourth score of over 350 achieved in Ireland.
Denmark's bowlers, seven of them, had poor figures. Vestergaard, Hansen and Chawla all bowled 10 overs for 73, 65 and 78 respectively with the first named taking three wickets.
At 3 p.m. Denmark went in and made no attempt to get the runs. The attempt would have had to begin at once as Hertfordshire had shown two matches previously. Instead Denmark lost the first wicket at nine in the first over; their second at 35 in the 10th; their third at 65 in the 15th; their fourth at 104 in the 27th; their fifth at 136 in the 36th; their sixth at 143 in the 38th; the seventh, and last, at 185 in over 48. The highest stand was 42 for the seventh wicket but it took 10 overs. The quickest stand was 30 in 32 balls for the third wicket.
Three batsmen reached the 30s, Klokker 32, J Hansen 37 and Lambert 33. Five of Ireland's seven bowlers took wickets. Eagleson and McCallan got two each, Eagleson dismissing the opening pair, both caught by the keeper.
Thus ended a wonderful season in which 14 matches were played, all limited overs, of which 10 were won and four lost. The season ended with nine successive wins, an unprecedented run, the previous best (since 1855 remember) being five. If the first two ECB Matches had been won the successive run of victories would have been 11. The "highlight" win must surely be the 10 wicket victory over Test playing nation Zimbabwe in the first match played in 2003. Nine wins in a season was the previous best. This was in 1997 out of 21 matches played.
Two scores of over 350 and two more of 206 and 266 were signs of improved batting, as was the average runs per wicket figure of 34.95 achieved over the 14 matches. This was the highest such figure ever. In 1996 this figure was 31.03 for 15 matches and in 1987 it was 30.73 for 10 matches. The figure has been as low as 19.01 for 11 matches in the year 2000. Four centuries were scored by different batsmen during 2003 and two of them were unfortunate not to score three each. In no previous season have more than three centuries been made. Century partnerships abounded. The were four for the first wicket including the second best ever; there were four for the second wicket (Botha was a partner in all) including the third best ever; and one for the third wicket.
Botha scored 561 runs at an average of 46.75. He is the seventh to score 500 runs in a season (the best being Stephen Smyth with 703 in 1998) and Botha's average is the highest of the seven. Overall Botha has now scored 636 runs in 15 matches for Ireland. His average of 45.42 carries him to the top of the all-time batting averages, of those with more than 600 runs, dethroning Alf Masood. Next in 2003 comes Bray, 454 runs at 37.83, then Molins, 358 at 44.75 and then Gillespie, 328 at 41.
McCallan had a splendid all-round year. In his 95th match he reached 2000 runs, in his 98th 100 wickets, and then came 100 caps, the fifth to get such a century. As regards his 2000 runs/100 wickets, a double only two others have got so far, Alec O'Riordan (1958-77) 2018 runs and 206 wickets and Garfield Harrison (1983-1997) 2765 runs and 140 wickets.
Turning to the bowling the runs per wicket conceded figure was 22.83, the lowest figure since limited overs cricket began to dominate in the early 1990s. The star was Paul Mooney, both in terms of wickets taken, 21, and his average of 17.38. Mooney got to 50 caps in 2003, (as did his captain Molins), and has now taken 78 wickets at 23.48. This figure puts him into ninth place among post-1945 bowlers who have taken at least 70 wickets. Those above him are cricket legends, Boucher, Monteith, Duffy, Ingram, Huey, O'Riordan, Goodwin and Corlett. In addition, Mooney won two Man-of-the-Match Awards in 2003. Botha, with 22, took one more wicket than Mooney at an average of 18.40 and thus became the first Irish player to score 500 runs and take 20 wickets in one season. The spinners, McCallan and White also did well. The former took 70 wickets at 25.76 and the latter 15 at 25.53.
The two wicketkeepers used, O'Brien and Bushe, had 16 victims between them and, in all, 119 wickets were taken out of a possible 140. There were three new caps among the 19 players used, Coetzee, who got seven caps, Morgan, five, and Rankin, two. Uniquely, none of these has experienced defeat.
McCallan and White were the only players to have played all 14 matches in 2003. They now have nine successive wins and, in 2004, will be trying for Paul McCrum's (1989-98) record of 10 successive wins which he achieved in mid career. Botha and Bray, eight each, will also be chasing that.