Ireland squeak home in Stormont thriller
Ireland 210 for 8 (Morgan 51, Bukhari 3-45) beat Netherlands 209 for 6 (Bukhari 71) by one run
Ireland revived memories of their nerve-jangling World Cup successes against Pakistan and Bangladesh, as Kevin O'Brien turned certain defeat into an incredible one-run win, keeping his cool in the final over of the match against Netherlands at Stormont.
After winning the toss and batting first on a sluggish pitch, Ireland posted an adequate but unimposing total of 210 for 8, thanks to Eion Morgan's determined 51 from 112 balls, and a late burst of violence from Dave Langford-Smith, who clubbed three sixes in his 13-ball 31 not out. But it never looked like being enough as Netherlands cruised to 192 for 3 with five overs remaining.
Then, however, O'Brien began to turn the tide. Peter Borren and Eric Szwarczynski had added 33 for the fourth wicket before Szwarczynski was excellently caught at chest height in O'Brien's followthrough. Borren then holed out to midwicket without addition, and Ireland's juices began to flow.
With 16 needed from three overs, Geert-Maarten Mol was run out by the ever-alert Ken Carroll at mid-off, and the small crowd of fifty-odd spectators roared in approval. Billy Stelling slashed Andre Botha down to third man for a tension-relieving boundary but seven runs were still needed from the final over.
O'Brien began with two dot balls before Stelling hammered the third to extra cover for a single. Hendrik-Jan Mol then, incredibly, decided to shoulder arms with six still needed from three deliveries, and his folly was exacerbated when O'Brien fielded his next delivery superbly in his followthrough. Though Mol managed to finish with a four to reduce the deficit, the match had effectively been won and lost.
Ireland coach Phil Simmons was delighted with the character his side showed. "I think it's one of those things," he said, "where in Kenya we probably would have lost. So it does show we've made a step forward, and we are able to win games - and the brilliant last six overs from Kevin O'Brien and Andre Botha saw us through."
And although Netherlands did appear to panic, Simmons was quick to praise his bowlers - particularly O'Brien whose control in the dying overs strangled Netherlands' intent. "I think there was a lot of skill involved," he said. "If you watch the last six overs, as far as I'm concerned it was top-class death bowling - particularly from Kevin; he was always hard to hit over the top. But at the same time, there was a bit of luck, - they were cruising, and then they panic. If you panic in this game, you lose."
The result was hard luck on Netherlands' main man, the Pakistan-born Mudassar Bukhari, who chipped in with three wickets in Ireland's innings before launching the run-chase with a classy 71 from 114 balls. He was eventually run out by Kyle McCallan's accurate return from the deep and Baz Zuiderent followed six overs later for 36, but Netherlands still seemed to be firmly on course. O'Brien and his team-mates decided otherwise.