|World Cricket League Division 1: Netherlands, July 2010|
O’Brien and White bat Ireland to comfortable victory over Scotland
A 160-run fourth wicket partnership between Kevin O’Brien and Andrew White set up a comfortable six-wicket victory for Ireland over traditional rival Scotland in the final of the ICC World Cricket League Division 1 at VRA in Amstelveen on Saturday.
O’Brien finished unbeaten on 98 and White was dismissed after a well-played 79 as the defending champion achieved a 233-run target for the loss of four wickets with 31 balls to spare.
O’Brien, who later picked up his third man-of-the-match award of the tournament, and White had come together with Ireland in bother at 51-3. However, the two batsmen played clever cricket by not only nudging and pushing the ball around but also by punishing anything that was loose.
The duo’s stand, which spanned 29 overs, was the largest partnership in the entire tournament and also the highest for Ireland against Scotland in ODI history, eclipsing the 131 added by William Porterfield and Eoin Morgan in Benoni during last year’s ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier.
When Richie Berrington brought off a blinder of a catch to terminate White’s innings with 22 still required for victory, O’Brien kept his composure and took his side home in the company of John Mooney (12 not out) without any further hiccups or last-minute scares.
Such was O’Brien’s commitment to the team cause that instead of attempting a boundary which would have given him his second ODI century, he opted for a single to ensure that Ireland collected the silverware and also retained its status as the top Associate side.
O’Brien’s superlative innings included three towering sixes and four exquisitely timed fours from 104 balls. His first 50 runs came off 62 balls with two fours and two six. White’s innings, his maiden ODI half-century, spanned 87 balls and included 11 fours.
Earlier, Scotland’s openers Fraser Watts (98) and Preston Mommsen (80) had provided Scotland a dream start when the two put on 141 runs for the first wicket in 30.2 overs after being put into bat. It was easily the highest first-wicket stand of the entire tournament, passing the 50 added by Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie for Ireland against Canada.
However, Scotland’s middle-order failed to capitalize on that start and in the face of some intelligent bowling from O’Brien (2-46), Ireland captain Trent Johnston (2-21) and left-arm spinner George Dockrell (2-42), it slipped to 169-7 before a late rally led by Watts and Scotland captain Gordon Drummond (30) lifted it to 232 as they added 51 for the eighth wicket.
Watts, who was not even a member of the playing eleven at the start of the tournament, fought hard before he was ninth out in the penultimate over of the innings, with his innings spanning 112 balls and including eight fours. His opening partner Mommsen batted equally well and punctuated his 107-ball innings with seven fours and a six.
Ireland captain Trent Johnston was delighted with his side’s performance which saw it return from two difficult situations to turn the tide in its favour.
Johnston said: “We had set ourselves the target of winning every game and retain the title and I am just over the moon to achieve that objective.
“It is great to win another trophy that keeps us at the top of Associate level. We had a few speed bumps against Afghanistan in the last 12 months but it was not (the case) here as we beat Afghanistan pretty convincingly a few days ago with an inexperienced side.
“All those people who talk about the wheel turning or that Irish cricket is a one generation side are very much mistaken and will be proven wrong if they look at the performances the kids have put in over the last 10 days.”
Reflecting on the match, Johnston said: “I was certainly not happy to see Scotland reach 141-0 after I had sent it in as we didn’t bowl very well at the start. But we persisted and stayed focused which earned us two key wickets. A couple of silly shots from their senior players later on got us back in the match and in the end we were left chasing 233 instead of anything in excess of 280.
“Kevin (O’Brien) has matured as a cricketer and is working very hard on his game. We call (Andrew) White as a finisher so I was confident that the two would take us home after we were struggling at 51-3.. The two were expected to build a partnership and they did exactly that, and though White couldn’t take us over the finish-line, it was an excellent effort by him.”
Scotland captain Gordon Drummond admitted he was disappointed after failing to capitalise on a solid opening stand. He said: “We were constantly assessing the situation but when we reached 141-0, we were targeting 280 and this is what we should have got at the end. Something that we need to learn is to convert good starts into winning scores and kill off the opposition.
“If you had offered me a second place and four wins out of six matches before the start of the tournament, I would have definitely taken it because we arrived here without a couple of key players and after having finished fifth in South Africa last year.
“Overall, it has been a good two weeks in the Netherlands which has provided an opportunity for the players to learn and improve their game and skills.”