Monday 20 November 2017

Joyce magic inspires Irish to promised land

Ed Joyce has helped put Ireland in a strong position
Ed Joyce has helped put Ireland in a strong position

Gerard Hughes

IRELAND qualified for the 2015 World Cup after a see-saw duel with the Netherlands in Amstelveen that ended in a dramatic tie.

Ed Joyce's measured 96 not out took Ireland to 268-5 from 50 overs, but on a good pitch the home side were always up with the chase and looked to have the game won with four overs to bowl.

A clatter of wickets – including a stunning catch by skipper William Porterfield – put Ireland back in the driving seat, only for Mike Rippon to strike John Mooney's last two balls for a four and a six to level the scores.

A point, though, from the two on offer, was enough for Ireland to top the eight-team table with two games still to play, while the Dutch move into second place above Scotland on run rate. One of those two teams – or Afghanistan, who have four games to play – will also qualify automatically for the trip to Australia and New Zealand.

"If you'd offered us three points from two games here in Amsterdam, I think we'd have taken that," Joyce said. "The Dutch batted really well and probably should have won it – but we stuck in there as we always do.

"It's a fantastic feeling for the boys to have reached a third successive World Cup and I'm sure there will be a bit of a party here tonight."

Ireland looked to be heading for a massive score as Porterfield and Paul Stirling put on 73 for the first wicket, then the wise heads of Joyce and Niall O'Brien laid the perfect platform with a partnership of 113.

When O'Brien was bowled for 50, Ireland were 210-3 with nine overs remaining and looking at a total close to 300, but the late onslaught failed to materialise and Joyce was stranded four short of his century from 113 balls.

Lively

Stephan Myburgh gave the Dutch reply a kickstart with a lively 35 from 26 balls and much as Porterfield changed his bowlers, he could not stem the flow of runs.

As had been the case in Ireland's 88-run win on Sunday, the slower bowlers found more success, with Stirling's off spin removing both openers and medium pacer Kevin O'Brien again proving the most successful of the attack.

Three wickets in 10 balls – including a smart run-out by Porterfield and wicketkeeper Gary Wilson – put a temporary brake on the home side before the classy Tom Cooper and Dan van Bunge swung the pendulum back to the Netherlands.

Van Bunge was lbw to O'Brien for 45 but the first ball of the 47th over looked to have sealed Ireland's fate when Joyce not only dropped a chance on the mid-wicket boundary, but also helped the ball over the ropes for six.

Remarkably Joyce was able to make amends next ball, catching Peter Borren in his midriff as the Dutch skipper attempted back-to-back maximums. Porterfield then dived to hold onto a leg-side flick from Cooper and as panic set in another two wickets fell before Rippon performed his heroics.

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