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Ian Callender

Ireland are on the brink of their third World Cup finals after another Dutch demolition in Amstelveen. William Porterfield's side won by 88 runs and need just one more point to top the qualifying group. It was certainly not a complete, all-conquering performance but more than good enough for Ireland to win their 13th successive game against the Netherlands, a run stretching back more than six years.

William Porterfield came out of his poor run to top score with 79 but only after he survived a drop catch to the second ball of the match. Kevin O'Brien was also missed on 11 before going on to make a whirlwind 32 as the Dutch catching let them down.

It was Niall O'Brien who gave the Ireland innings the momentum and his 70, in an innings when he passed 4,000 runs for Ireland, was also his best score in an ODI for five years.

Ireland's only slight worry was when the Dutch reached 60 for one in reply from just 12 overs but that all changed with the introduction of Paul Stirling who took a wicket in his first over and then Kevin O'Brien took centre stage.

O'Brien did not bowl a ball in the Intercontinental Cup match in Deventer last week but that was "because I was not needed". After an impressive spell in the nets on Saturday, Porterfield threw him the ball in the 17th over, he had the Netherlands' best batsman, Tom Cooper, caught in the deep second ball and after that he never looked back.

Seven overs later he had his best one-day international figures of four for 13, the Dutch were 109 for eight, in their now hopeless pursuit of Ireland's 236, and that was the cue for the captain to give John Mooney some bowling practice - just in case he might be needed to bowl an inspirational spell tomorrow.

On yesterday's evidence that doesn't seem likely because there remains a vast chasm between these two teams - and yet the Dutch still have a chance of claiming the second automatic qualifying spot. That's how far ahead Ireland are ahead of their rest of their peers.

Yet National Coach Phil Simmons could still afford to leave Max Sorensen on the bench, although Alex Cusack, presumably preferred because of his death bowling, did himself few favours with three expensive overs, including one in the powerplay when the last pair was at the wicket. Sorensen, who had taken five wickets in each of last two games for Ireland, will be, rightly, bitterly disappointed if he doesn't get the call for the big one tomorrow.

But this is a squad who always backs each other and they will be delighted for their captain who always insisted he was just one game away from a big score. Porterfield threatened to carry his bat but he was ninth out of the start of the last over in

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