DHARAMSALA: Ireland’s faith in themselves as the leading nation among cricket’s cold-shouldered fraternity was dented when they lost to the Netherlands in Sylhet in the 2014 World Twenty20. Two years on, their sense of well-being has been further eroded in a six-over thrash on a cold and grouchy day in Dharamsala that fell Netherlands’ way by 12 runs
There was snow on the mountain tops in Himachal Pradesh, if the drizzle had cleared the temperatures were plunging and Ireland felt the chill as once they were again tormented by the side in orange.
Sainsbury’s supermarket was once forced to ditch its orange branding when the elderly citizens of Frinton-on-Sea, England’s staidest seaside resort, complained it was too garish, and increasingly Ireland will look upon the Netherlands and know how they feel.
The orange flash at deep midwicket that sparkled most brightly of all came 14 balls into Ireland’s pursuit of 60 and belonged to Pieter Seelaar as he sprinted along the midwicket boundary before clinging to a slick diving catch. There will be few better in the tournament proper. Paul van Meekeren banged the ball in back of a length, Kevin O’Brien’s pull was middled, but the shot that might have broken the run chase (had it gone for six Ireland would have been 34 for 1 after 14 balls) was instead the harbinger of Ireland’s growing despondency.
As for van Meekeren, a return of 4 for 11 will awaken a little interest, one suspects, in English county cricket. By the time he began the final over, Ireland were still 20 short, and he demolished the stumps of Max Sorensen and George Dockrell to ensure there was no monkey business.
Whatever occurred, both countries knew at the start of this match that they were already eliminated. There was no mountain left to climb – just the Himalayas to look at as they headed to the airport, but Netherlands headed there much the happier.
Twas a game, of sorts, and there was a passion to win it. Only one Ireland player was allowed to bowl two overs and Dockrell’s left-arm spin proved to be a wise choice, registering 3 for 7, and producing catching opportunities from three of his first five balls, two of which were taken. Seven dot balls out of 12, including an over in the Powerplay, was an astounding effort that might have brought victory.
The Dharamsala pitch offered up its usual plasticine consistency, but Dockrell found turn all the same as Netherlands’ batsmen floundered against him. Tom Cooper slogged his third ball to mid-on, affording the opportunity to prey upon Roelof van der Merwe who was promoted to No. 3.
It did not work out for van der Merwe. Twice, he slogged Dockrell’s left-arm spin to the legside. Kevin O’Brien spilled the first – a slice to long-off and a grimace from O’Brien as he landed heavily, but van der Merwe’s next attempt was entirely bungled and he fell off the cue end at short third man.
The coup de grace came in Dockrell’s second over when his turn outdid Wesley Barresi as he came down the pitch, leaving Niall O’Brien with a simple stumping.
Memories of Sylhet in 2014 meant that Ireland were particularly wary of Stephan Myburgh. When Netherlands chased down 190 in 13.5 overs in the World T20 two years ago, the muscular Myburgh got 63 – his 50, in 17 balls standing as the equal third fastest in T20Is.
On this occasion he was dropped on 9 by Paul Stirling at deep midwicket but was still restricted to 27 from 18 balls before he was run out against the penultimate ball. Dockrell bowled only one ball at him – the first ball of his spell – and got away with a leg bye off his waist.
Stirling was quick to address Ireland’s chase. He twice walked across his stumps in Timm van der Gugten’s first over to flick him over fine leg for six. But Seelaar’s thrilling intervention changed the complexion of the game and Stirling fell to the next ball, his ramp shot collected at third man.
At 28 for 3 off 2.3, Ireland had opportunity even in a six-over game for a settling period, but their plight worsened when Gary Wilson and Stuart Poynter departed against van der Merwe within three balls – Wilson falling to a reverse sweep, Poynton skying a rustic slog.
With 25 needed from two, and only five wickets remaining, Netherlands were suddenly favourites. A fine penultimate over from Mudassar Bukhari meant 20 were needed off the last. They never got close.
And that, for Ireland and Netherlands, was that. A dead rubber in a qualifying tournament disrupted by rain and in a state where most attention has been drawn by a grandstanding chief minister, was a cruel end for both sides to their stay in Himachal Pradesh.
But they remained as driven as ever by the need to advertise their worth, propelled by an entrenched sense of anger towards a sport that limits their appearances to occasional token appearances and a lack of expansionist philosophy in the higher echelons of the ICC. Even in a match reduced to 72 balls, their passion insisted that they deserve better.
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The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
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