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Match Report
Ian Callender

Day 1 Ireland captain Trent Johnston was "absolutely delighted" with the first day of the Intercontinental Cup clash with the Netherlands at Rathmines which ended with his side just 100 runs behind and eight first innings wickets remaining. Debutant Allan Eastwood bowled with the nous of a veteran, spinners George Dockrell and Albert van der Merwe then shared seven wickets for just 61 runs and by the close Alex Cusack and Kevin O'Brien had put on 71 for the third wicket as Ireland closed on 88 for two.

"We went to sleep in the field for half an hour, and lost a couple of wickets early on, but apart from that it was a very good day. The spinners tied the batsmen down either side of lunch, the runs dried up and we got a stranglehold on the match.," said Johnston. "If we can bat for another three sessions we should have a lead of around 150 and that will put us in a very strong position."

Having said that, Johnston will be aware that the Dutch were 82 for one half an hour before lunch - Wilfred Diepeveen making 41 off 48 balls with eight fours - before losing nine wickets for 106 in 37 overs. The home skipper knows, however, that his batting is more experienced and stronger than their opponents although the Dutch have so far bowled only two overs of spin from which Ireland have scored one run.

It was the introduction of spin which changed the course of the day. In the next six overs, only five runs were scored and Ireland took two wickets as caution became the watchword and proved the downfall of the visitors. Dockrell had the experienced Tom de Grooth caught at silly point off the last ball before lunch and immediately afterwards Johnston's accuracy was rewarded when he had Nick Statham caught behind for an 18-ball duck.

After Dockrell had struck again, Wesley Barresi missing a sweep, van der Merwe, on his first class debut, was introduced and in his third over tempted Dutch skipper Peter Borren to dance down the wicket and he was stumped for 39. A seventh wicket stand between Dutch debutant Tom Heggelman and Peter Seelaar held up Ireland but after Dockrell was hit for two fours by Seelaar only nine runs came in 11 overs and the last four wickets fell for six runs.

Eastwood was unable to follow up his wicket in the fourth over but a consistent good length and carry by the Pembroke bowler on an excellent Rathmines pitch augurs well for the second innings. When Ireland batted, immediately after tea, Paul Stirling failed to adapt to a four-day mentality and flashed once too often, caught at third slip off Bernard Loots in only the fourth over.

Opening partner James Hall was trapped in front by Maurits Jonkman - brother Mark and Adeel Raja were left out of the 13 - soon afterwards but O'Brien's power and Cusack's clean driving has already punished any wayward Dutch bowling and if they can survive the trial by spin today, Ireland will be a position of strength.

Day 2

Ireland have the Netherlands on the run and are on course to win a first game in their waning defence of the Intercontinental Cup. While it may be too late to earn them a final place for the fourth successive tournament, it will prove that on home soil they are still the strongest Associate nation in four-day cricket. A sixth wicket stand of 221 between Andrew White, who scored his fourth international century, and a delighted John Mooney who completed his first, ensured Ireland posted 400 for the third time in the first innings in four I-Cup matches.

Captain Trent Johnston then took three wickets in his first five overs and by the close of the second day the Netherlands were 71 for four, still trailing by 149. A result with more than a day to spare, would appear a good bet, especially with the weather set fair. What Day 2's play proved - all 104 overs of it - was that Ireland have a stronger batting line-up than their opponents and the Dutch have only one threatening spinner.

The visitors could not have wished for a better start to the day, overnight batsmen Kevin O'Brien and Alex Cusack dismissed inside half an hour and when Gary Wilson was given out leg before to slow left armer Peter Seelaar halfway through the extended first session, Ireland were 153 for five and still trailing by 35. But White, always the man for a crisis, and Mooney, now established as Ireland's No 7 and finally getting a chance to show off his batting talent, compiled the perfect partnership and by the end of their three-hour liaison had the Dutch begging for mercy.

White was the first to his century off 167 balls with 13 fours and a six - the previous three had come in four-yearly intervals but his last was only in 2008 so he will hope this one will not be his last. For Mooney it has been a much longer wait. Indeed it took him nine years and 58 matches to score his first 50, in Ireland's last I-Cup game against Afghanistan, but just seven months and 32 matches later he brought up the elusive hundred from 129 balls with his 17th four, one of many stroked through extra cover, a feature of his outstanding innings.

The partnership was ended just 13 runs short of Ireland's best for the sixth wicket, three balls before tea when Mooney was beaten by a beauty by off spinner Mohammad Kashif who took the remaining four wickets, including White for 144 - eight short of his Ireland best, against the Dutch in Deventer in 2004 - to claim his first five-for for the Netherlands. Johnston took a wicket with his first ball, Allan Eastwood was rewarded for another impressively hostile opening spell with the wicket of Tom de Grooth and when the Dutch lost their fourth wicket for just 38, a two-day win was not out of the question.

Peter Borren, the captain survived to the close with Nick Statham who is scoring centuries for fun in club cricket. Both will need big ones today to stop this rampant Ireland side.

Day 3

Trent Johnston has admitted that lack of preparation ahead of the Intercontinental Cup match in Sri Lanka at the start of the year has probably cost Ireland a place in a fourth successive final. The holders needed only 90 minutes of the third day at Rathmines to complete victory over the Netherlands yesterday but Johnston, captain in the absence of William Porterfield, knows they need to take maximum points hauls against Canada and the Zimbabwe XI in their remaining games to have any chance of sneaking into the five-day final at the end of November.

"The weather cost us victories in the first two games last summer but preparation before the Afghanistan match wasn't great - (they flew straight out of winter into match action in Dambulla in Janaury and lost) - but we just have to keep going out and getting 20 points and if we play against Canada the way did over the last three days I'd be confident of doing that," said Johnston. National coach Phil Simmons agreed: "We just have to get 60 points and see what happens. It's hard for us to reach the final but we have been there three times in a row and we know we're the best team in the four-day competition."

It was certainly an emphatic finish yesterday. Resuming on 71 for four, still needing another 149 to avoid the innings defeat, Netherlands made just 65 as Allan Eastwood completed a fairytale debut with four second innings wickets for five in the match. Albert van der Merwe took the other three and it is a confident Irish squad which will go into the first of two one-day internationals between the teams at Clontarf on Monday.

The Dutch will be strengthened by the arrival of Tom Cooper, the player of the tournament at the World League last month, former Sussex batsman Bas Zuiderent and Mudassar Bhukari, but Johnston is expecting to win both games which will return Ireland to 10th place in the ODI world rankings. He said: If we can hit the areas which we did today and build a partnership the way Andrew White and John Mooney did on Thursday and we continue to take our chances - our fielding was very good in this match - then I can't see any reason why we can't win 2-0."

It was a smart catch at third slip by Kevin O'Brien which brought Ireland their first wicket yesterday, Nick Statham's resistance failing to last the second over of the day, and Gary Wilson, who was generally excellent behind the stumps, James Hall, at silly point, and Johnston held the others, the skipper's a stunning one-handed reflex effort at slip off van der Merwe to send back Maurits Jonkman second ball. Peter Borren, the Dutch skipper, held out for 83 balls but Eastwood accounted for him, leg before and it was all over seven balls later when Bernard Loots gave a return catch to van der Merwe.

Ireland have added Andrew Poynter to the squad for the ODIs, the Clontarf batsman has not played since injuring his shoulder in the World League final in Amsterdam five weeks ago. With Nigel Jones already in the squad of 12, Waringstown's James Hall will instead go with the A team for the three-day game against Hampshire II, also starting on Monday.

Hall replaces Conor Mullen and Strabane's Phil Eaglestone takes his first steps back into the international scene after injury. He comes in for Eddie Richardson.

Photographs
Day 2
Rathmines, Dublin