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It's a consolation day for the Irish

Ireland lost the toss for the first time in the CricInfo Women's World Cup today but it turned out to be sixth time lucky as they made the most of some Netherlands' gifts to score their first win of the tournament.

The first gift was the invitation to bat when the still, hot and depressingly humid conditions turned fielding into a trial of endurance. The second gift actually numbered 28, the wide balls that Ireland turned into 41 runs, the precise difference between the two teams at the end.

And the third gift was the second over of the match. The Netherlands had achieved their dream start, capturing the first Irish wicket with Sandra Kottman's fifth ball of the innings courtesy of a superb slip catch by their captain, Pauline te Beest. But it turned into a nightmare.

Cheraldine Oudolf put balls three, four and five of the second over outside Anne Linehan's legs and three times in succession the Irish left-hander despatched them backward of square to the rope. And for good measure she drove the sixth to the cover boundary. Nineteen off the over, 21 for one after two overs and the Irish knew it was their day.

They never looked back. Linehan went on to 54 off 68 balls, the captain, Miriam Grealey, ensured the pace did not drop with 32 off 37 balls and at the other end the rock of Caitriona Beggs carried her bat from her entrance at 56 for two in the 12th over for a personal best 66. It was a meritorious enough innings given the energy sapping conditions. It was even more notable given that she top-edged a ball into her eye at the end of the 30th over, requiring a lengthy treatment break that would have seen rugby referees ushering her from the playing arena.

But she continued on in what turned out to be a player-of-the-matching performance, undoubtedly contributed to by her outstanding ground fielding during the Netherlands innings.

And at the end of the innings, when the fighting Dutch denied the Ireland batsmen the free hits they had feasted on earlier, there was the quick-running expert Nikki Squire. While scoring an undefeated 10, she assisted Beggs in an undefeated seventh wicket partnership of 36 runs in five overs as the score reached 232 for six at the end of 50.

For the Netherlands bowlers, there was little joy. Kottman (10-38-2) and Teuntje de Boer (10-40-1), who returned at the death, did manage to hold Ireland in check when they threatened to take complete control. But those wides said it all about the Netherlands' effort in the field.

If the Netherlands did not already believe the gods had conspired against them, a strong wind swept the field after lunch, blowing away the humid conditions and anything else that was not tied down. It made batting very difficult.

It did not do much for the bowlers, either. But no one told Barbara McDonald. Operating on pain-killers for a leg injury incurred through some injudicious fielding in her last match, she uprooted the stumps of one of the big Netherlands' threats, Maartje Koster, in her second over and then conspired with Saibh Young to keep the Netherlands to 18 for two off the first 10 overs. It was virtually all over by then.

McDonald came back at the death and ended with the fine figures given the conditions of 10 overs, three maidens, one for 22 (six of those courtesy of tired Irish fielding at the end). Young, two for 32 off eight, Karen Young, one for 15 off five and Isobel Joyce, one for 28 off nine, played their part in keeping the Netherlands in check.

But the Netherlands never gave up. Building around a fine performance by the wicket-keeper batsman, Rowan Milburn, they kept fighting to the end, finishing on 191 for eight, a fine score from a chasing team at this tournament. Milburn ended with 71, adding 62 with Tessa van der Gun (43) for the sixth wicket.

While they were together, anything was possible. But those wides always dangled the target tantalisingly out of reach.

For a coach who had just picked up his first win of the tournament, John Wills was subdued. He was reasonably pleased with the batting. "We set targets and met them, even exceeded them." But, even making allowances for the very trying conditions, he would have looked for a better performance in the field. "Some of the outfielding was sloppy."

"It was a workman's performance." And at last a smile: "We'll gratefully accept the win."

  • It's a consolation day for the Irish

    Ireland lost the toss for the first time in the CricInfo Women's World Cup today but it turned out to be sixth time lucky as they made the most of some Netherlands' gifts to score their first win of the tournament