Ireland keep control against The Netherlands
Ireland have the Netherlands on the run and are on course to win a first game in their waning defence of the Intercontinental Cup.
While it may be too late to earn them a final place for the fourth successive tournament, it will prove that on home soil they are still the strongest Associate nation in four-day cricket. A sixth wicket stand of 221 between Andrew White, who scored his fourth international century, and a delighted John Mooney who completed his first, ensured Ireland posted 400 for the third time in the first innings in four I-Cup matches.
Captain Trent Johnston then took three wickets in his first five overs and by the close of the second day the Netherlands were 71 for four, still trailing by 149. A result with more than a day to spare, would appear a good bet, especially with the weather set fair.
What yesterday’s play proved - all 104 overs of it - was that Ireland have a stronger batting line-up than their opponents and the Dutch have only one threatening spinner.
The visitors could not have wished for a better start to the day, overnight batsmen Kevin O’Brien and Alex Cusack dismissed inside half an hour and when Gary Wilson was given out leg before to slow left armer Peter Seelaar halfway through the extended first session, Ireland were 153 for five and still trailing by 35.
But White, always the man for a crisis, and Mooney, now established as Ireland’s No 7 and finally getting a chance to show off his batting talent, compiled the perfect partnership and by the end of their three-hour liaison had the Dutch begging for mercy.
White was the first to his century off 167 balls with 13 fours and a six - the previous three had come in four-yearly intervals but his last was only in 2008 so he will hope this one will not be his last.
For Mooney it has been a much longer wait. Indeed it took him nine years and 58 matches to score his first 50, in Ireland’s last I-Cup game against Afghanistan, but just seven months and 32 matches later he brought up the elusive hundred from 129 balls with his 17th four, one of many stroked through extra cover, a feature of his outstanding innings.
The partnership was ended just 13 runs short of Ireland’s best for the sixth wicket, three balls before tea when Mooney was beaten by a beauty by off spinner Mohammad Kashif who took the remaining four wickets, including White for 144 - eight short of his Ireland best, against the Dutch in Deventer in 2004 - to claim his first five-for for the Netherlands.
Johnston took a wicket with his first ball, Allan Eastwood was rewarded for another impressively hostile opening spell with the wicket of Tom de Grooth and when the Dutch lost their fourth wicket for just 38, a two-day win was not out of the question.
Peter Borren, the captain survived to the close with Nick Statham who is scoring centuries for fun in club cricket. Both will need big ones today to stop this rampant Ireland side.