Ireland hold on to take another thriller

Paul Stirling takes on the Dutch bowling (Sander Tholen)
Paul Stirling takes on the Dutch bowling (Sander Tholen)

For the second time in six days the Netherlands and Ireland fought out a tense battle until the final delivery at Westvliet on Friday, and for the second time it was the Irish who hung on to secure a narrow victory.

In fact it was the last two overs of each innings which made the difference between the sides, Ireland plundering 34 runs from Logan van Beek and Bas de Leede, while the Dutch, needing 19 for victory, could only manage 15 from Barry McCarthy and Craig Young.

The lack of an established death bowler, indeed, will be a source of concern to the Dutch coaching staff as they head to the Western Hemisphere for the World T20 Cup.

This was a match which the Netherlands undoubtedly could and should have won, and it is a tribute to Ireland’s resilience under pressure that they twice fought back from difficult positions to pip their hosts at the post and retain their unbeaten record.

The first was with the bat, as despite a thundering start with Paul Stirling’s 27-ball 36 they had only reached 57 for four at the halfway point, and it took a defiant 37 from Curtis Campher and a vital, unbroken 40-run partnership from 17 deliveries between George Dockrell and Mark Adair to turn the innings around and get the total up to 161 for six.

Dockrell’s 53 not out, his ninth half-century for Ireland across all formats, came from just 30 balls and included five fours and two sixes, while Adair, who had subjected the Dutch attack to a sustained onslaught on Sunday, needed only eight deliveries for his undefeated 19.

It ruined the figures of De Leede, who had earlier put his side in a strong position by removing Lorcan Tucker and Harry Tector in one over, and to a lesser degree of Logan van Beek, who again bowled with genuine pace and exemplary accuracy.

Tim Pringle, too, bowled very economically, while Paul van Meekeren, the Netherlands’ leading wicket-taker in T20Is, added two more to his tally, including the invaluable wicket of Stirling.

The momentum, though, was with Ireland as the Dutch began their reply, and Michael Levitt and Max O’Dowd had to work hard to build their opening stand of 67, keeping pace with the required rate.

Stirling tried six bowlers before Gareth Delany got the breakthrough, Levitt deceived in the air and hammering the ball to Tector at deep midwicket, departing for a 34-ball 39.

O’Dowd, at last batting with some of his old assurance, went on to make 60 from 41 deliveries, eventually miscuing a shorter ball from Craig Young to give keeper Tucker an easy catch, and as Scott Edwards joined Vikram Singh 39 runs were needed from 32 balls with eight wickets remaining.

It looked straightforward, but Adair now took a hand with the ball, removing both Edwards and Singh in the space of four deliveries and bringing two new batters, De Leede and Wesley Barresi, to the crease.

19 were needed off the final two overs, and when Barry McCarthy conceded eight off his last, the Dutch were left requiring 11.

Stirling threw the ball to Young, who bowled Barresi with his third delivery, and now eight were needed from three.

With Young bowling very full and straight, Van Beek and De Leede could only manage four of them, and Ireland had held on for a 3-run victory.

It had been another splendid match in what has been a very good tournament, which will hopefully become a regular feature of the three countries’ programme, and in the end it was Ireland’s greater professionalism and experience which saw them home.

And as they board their planes for the United States and the Caribbean, all three sides will have plenty to think about and build on.

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