Minnows look to sign off on a high

Last Updated: Mar 17, 2011, 13:24 PM IST

Kolkata: It could well be their last outing at the big stage as minnows Ireland and the Netherlands lock horns in a battle for pride in their last group B match of the cricket World Cup here on Friday.

The two teams may disappear from the big stage for an indefinite period with the International Cricket Council aiming to trim down the next edition of the World Cup to 10 nations after the lengthy 14-team format with some dull one-sided affairs had been subject to criticism.

Now that the two teams know that they cannot make the quarterfinals with Ireland on two points from five matches and the Netherlands none, it will be an opportunity for the players to grab attention with some individual performances at the majestic Eden Gardens.

Ireland will go into the match with the favourites tag while the Netherlands will be keen to open their account and avoid the wooden spoon in group B. But there seems to be little interest among the local crowd to turn up at the 63,500 capacity Eden Gardens for the day match.

Along with India, South Africa, England and the West Indies the top four teams on paper, the two Associate nations of Ireland and the Netherlands have provided the right mix making the group B richer with some stunning and promising displays.

Like in 2007, where famous victories over Pakistan and Bangladesh propped them to the Super Eights, Ireland lived up to their giant-killing reputation shocking England in an astonishing 300-plus run chase, the biggest upset in the 2011 edition so far.

The Irish were equally fighting against other teams and their win against England came after pushing Bangladesh to within 27 runs of a loss, while giving India some anxious moments. They lost to the West Indies by a margin of less than 50 runs.

In a must-win situation against South Africa in their previous match, Ireland had the Proteas thinking in the initial part of the match but chasing 272 proved too much in the end for William Porterfield and Co as their hopes of a last-eight berth went up in smoke.

Irish skipper Porterfield said after his team`s l31-run loss to the Proteas that his squad had a lot of positives to take back home.

"The win over England was the highlight. We also bowled and fielded well and got ourselves to winning positions in the matches against the West Indies and India. We will go back with a lot of positives," Potterfield said.

Having raised expectations after his fastest ever World Cup century against England, Kevin O`Brien had a lean patch against India, West Indies and South Africa and it will be his one last chance on the big stage when he faces the Dutchmen.

Kevin reached the triple figure from 50 deliveries and his 63-ball 113 helped Ireland overtake England`s formidable 327-8 with three wickets in the last over.

A contingent mostly of cricketers who play in the English county circuit, Ireland have been quick in the field while their bowling too has been disciplined.

Besides Kevin, their batting boasts of former English cricketer Ed Joyce at No 3 while the younger O`Brien brother Niall, who is also the wicketkeeper, has been in decent nick along with the spunky Gary Wilson in the middle-order.

Medium pacer John Mooney leads the bowling charts with eight wickets while the return of former captain and leading paceman Trent Johnston in their last match has boosted the pace attack along with lanky Boyd Rankin.

Left-arm spinner George Dockrell has been the find of the tournament as he provides an interesting spin option along with off-spinner Paul Stirling.

The presence of the Netherlands has provided some tense moments in group B as the Dutchmen, who have competed in three previous editions of the event.

Unlike the Irish, the Dutch are mostly a bunch of amateurs who work in 9-5 jobs but despite that they have had their share of some interesting moments.

The Netherlands scored a tall 292 for six against England in their first match before losing in the penultimate over and they had home favourites India 99 for 4 in a 190-run chase.

One of the professionals in the side, Ryan ten Doeschate who is their leading scorer with a century (vs England) and a half-century (vs Bangladesh) leads the batting line-up and will look to finish on a high.

In bowling, left-arm spinner Pieter Seelaar will enjoy bowling on the Eden 22-yard that offered uneven bounce in the previous game between Ireland and South Africa.

Having played the tough teams until now, they are looking to prove a point in terms of results.

"So far we`ve had a pretty difficult draw, we`ve come up against four top teams probably, on paper. Obviously it won`t be easy against Ireland either.”

"But you know we have played two good games against England and I think we competed well with India the other day," Borren said.

Squads:

Ireland: William Porterfield (c), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O`Brien (wk), Gary Wilson, Kevin O`Brien, Alex Cusack, John Mooney, Andre Botha, George Dockrell, Boyd Rankin, Trent Johnston, Albert van der Merwe, Andrew White and Nigel Jones.

The Netherlands: Peter Borren (c), Eric Swarczynski, Wesley Barresi (wk), Mudassar Bukhari, Tom Cooper, Ryan ten Doeschate, Alexei Kervezee, Tom de Grooth, Atse Buurman, Pieter Seelaar, Adeel Raja, Bradley Kruger, Bernard Loots, Berend Westdijk and Bas Zuiderent

Umpires: Simon Tuafel and Ian Gould; TV: Kumar Dharmasena (third), Fourth: Billy Doctrove; Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle

Start of Play: 9.30am (IST).

PTI