Ireland go into the World Cricket League final with a 100% record and their best available team but quite how they beat the Netherlands in their final round-robin game at Amstelveen yesterday, well, not even captain for the day Kevin O"Brien could answer that. A total of 177 on a good batting track had no right to be a winning score and when the Dutch were 132 for four in reply, and with O'Brien running out of ideas and bowling options, it was a question of when, not if the hosts would triumph.
But, in one of the more amazing finales that even this all-conquering Ireland team has conjured up, O'Brien threw the ball to George Dockrell and in tandem with Paul Stirling the teenage slow bowlers took the last six Dutch wickets for six runs. The simple explanation for the result is that the Netherlands tail order batsmen had no idea how to score runs on a turning pitch but that still doesn't justify why captain Peter Borren was left on his own to single-handedly take on an under-strength bowling attack.
Already missing six players at this tournament, Ireland rested both captain Trent Johnston and all rounder Alex Cusack and with Craig Young "still only 80% fit" and Phil Eaglestone consigned to the role of spectator with a side strain the holders went into the game with just three recognised pace bowlers. John Mooney, who doesn't even open for his club side, was given the new ball with O'Brien and Nigel Jones, who has bowled his full quota for Ireland only three times in his first 14 matches as the only back-up.
It looked as if complacency, the word National Coach Phil Simmons was desperate to avoid this week, had set in, but Ireland have a stranglehold over the Dutch - no matter what side they field, apparently. Mooney claimed the big wicket of Tom Cooper - the newly qualified Aussie-Dutchman who is the top runs scorer in the tournament - Dockrell took two in his first two overs and with O'Brien also on target, the Dutch were 59 for four. But Dutch captain Peter Borren joined Baz Zuiderent in the middle and they forced O'Brien to make seven bowling changes in 16 overs as the batsmen took control. The partnership was worth 73 and they were just 46 runs from the winning post when Borren tried to sweep Dockrell and was bowled.
At the other end Zuiderent was bogged down, probably fearful of what was to come and, as it turned out, he had every right to be worried. Scoring 28 from 87 balls may be acceptable when runs are coming at the other end but once Borren was out his attempts to take the lead only led to his dismissal, Stirling having him caught at short fine leg, above his head by Albert van der Merwe, fortunately the tallest member of the team.
Ireland's batting outside Stirling, Andrew White, the excellent Mooney and, at the end, Rory McCann is best forgotten and they can only hope that Andrew Balbirnie, Andrew Poynter, who chalked up his third successive duck and O'Brien himself will come good, if required in the final. Nigel Jones was unbeaten on 25 but was responsible for McCann's run-out yesterday, turning down a fair single, and left with van der Merwe and Dockrell, Ireland were all out with 10 balls unused. It could have been vital - if they weren't playing the Dutch.
- Adeel Raja bowling for The Netherlands
- Paul Sterling plays a lofted drive
- Andrew Balbirnie plays off his toes...
- ...and Bas Zuiderent takes an easy catch
- James Hall cuts to point
- Hall returns to Bernard Loots who takes the catch
- The Dutch players celebrate Loots' first ODI wicket
- One ball later Loots appeals...
- ...and Kevin O'Brien is out lbw
- Andrew Poynter is caught by keeper Buurman off Jonkman
- Paul Sterling scores past point...
- ...and high over cover
- Andrew White pulls Bukhari for four
- Sterling is bowled by Bernard Loots
- John Mooney has a close shave...
- ...but scores over the midwicket boundary
- Andrew White tries the uppercut...
- ...and the scoop
- Mooney dives and beats the throw
- Andrew White chases outside off and is caught by Cooper in the gully
- A pull shot by Nigel Jones
- John Mooney plays a square cut...
- ...and a fine sweep shot
- Mooney gets an edge and is caught by Kashif at fine leg
- Rory McCann whacks the ball to the on side...
- ...and then plays a controlled drive for a boundary
- Van der Merwe goes lbw by Jonkman...
- ...and then Borren finishes the Ireland innings by trapping Dockrell
- Eric Szwarczynski fishes outside off
- Kevin O'Brien ruins Szwarczynski's wicket
- Tom Cooper drives
- Cooper edges a Mooney delivery into the hands of Sterling at point
- Mudassar Bukhari pulls for a four
- An elegant shot by Wesley Barresi
- McCann appeals solo, and Bukhari is given out lbw
- A square drive by Barresi
- Peter Borren forces the tempo
- Bas Zuiderent plays his favourite sweep shot
- Peter Borren hits the ball into the trees
- The Irish field very well
- Another sweep by Zuiderent
- Borren goes over the top again...
- ...and gets away with a miscued shot
- A square drive by Borren
- Peter Borren is bowled by Dockrell going for a big shot
- Atse Buurman hits out...
- ...and Ireland celebrate the catch by Balbirnie at mid off
- Zuiderent edges a sweep and is well caught at fine leg by van der Merwe
- Adeel Raja is caught by keeper McCann around the corner
- Mooney misses a difficult chance
- Bernard Loots plays from the backfoot, straight into the hands of bowler Sterling
- Mohammad Kashif gives Kevin O'Brien a scare...
- ...but he is out caught and bowled Sterling next ball and Ireland have won the match
- And Man Of the Match is Kevin O'Brien for his 33 runs and his devastating spell of 4 for 11 in 6.5 overs