Campher-inspired Ireland take giant leap towards Super 12 qualification

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18 Oct 2021 | 01:06 PM
authorAnirudh Suresh

Campher-inspired Ireland take giant leap towards Super 12 qualification

A thumping 7-wicket win has put Ireland in pole position in Group A

In a contest that was being built-up as a virtual shoot-out for Super 12 qualification, owing to the presence of Sri Lanka in the group, it was Ireland who came out on top in the ‘battle of equals’ as they trounced the Netherlands by 7 wickets to register their first win of the 2021 T20 World Cup. 

Bowling first, the Andrew Balbirnie-led side restricted Netherlands to a modest 106, thanks to a stunning four-wicket haul from young Curtis Campher, and then knocked the target off in 15.1 overs to go top of Group A. With a Net Run Rate of +1.755, Ireland will now all but go through to the Super 12 stage with one more win. They will next take on Sri Lanka at the same venue on Wednesday, October 20. 

Ireland set the tone in the powerplay

Coming into the encounter today, Ireland had lost 7 of the 11 T20Is they’d played in 2021, but even in defeats, one facet of their game stood out: bowling in the powerplay. They had, prior to today, maintained an ER of just 7.2 in the first six overs, the second-best behind Bangladesh. In 11 matches, only thrice had they even conceded 40 or more runs in the first six overs. 

Note: The numbers above are up to date, collated after the conclusion of the IRE vs NED clash

And once again today, the Irish were all over their opponents in the first six overs. 

Part-timer Paul Stirling took the new ball and bowled a flawless first over, getting plenty of drift and grip, and in that very over, Ireland were provided a gift by the Netherlands. Max O'Dowd and Ben Cooper, on the third ball, were involved in a terrible mix-up, and the miscommunication resulted in Cooper perishing for a golden duck. And the Dutch never recovered after that initial blow.

Seamers Josh Little and Mark Adair were on the money, combinedly conceding just 13 runs off the 4 overs they bowled in the powerplay, and Little also accounted for the wicket of Bas de Leede. The Netherlands number three premeditated a scoop, but got his execution horribly wrong as his leg-stump went for a walk. 

Simi Singh bowled the only expensive over of the powerplay, conceding 10, but despite that, 25 was all the Netherlands managed. Balbirnie’s side started the encounter off like a team with plenty of experience and pedigree. 

Historic Curtis Campher spell floors Netherlands as Max O’Dowd fights a lone battle 

After being pegged back in the powerplay, Netherlands started the middle-overs well enough, collecting 25 runs across overs 7, 8 and 9. The experienced Colin Ackermann and O’Dowd were building a nice little partnership, which looked to have steadied the ship. 

But little did Netherlands know that it would turn out to be the calm before the storm. A storm inflicted by the rapidly-rising Curtis Campher, who single handedly would end up running through the Dutch.

Campher, in the 10th over, took not one, not two, not even three, but four wickets as Netherlands, from 52/2, were reduced to 52/6 in the span of four balls. 

The all-rounder sent Ackermann packing through a lucky tickle, and then completed his hat-trick by trapping Ryan ten Doeschate and Scott Edwards plumb in front. But it didn’t end there. The 22-year-old disturbed Roelof van der Merwe’s timber on the fifth ball of the over to become the third over cricketer in T20I history to take 4 wickets in 4 balls.

But while this carnage was unfolding at one end, there was a certain O’Dowd at the other end who was going about his business as if nothing had happened. Speaking to prior to the World Cup, Netherlands head coach Ryan Campbell singled out the 27-year-old as one of the players to watch out for, and the opener did play some supreme cricket.

Adept against both pace and spin, O’Dowd kept ticking along nicely to post his seventh T20I fifty. He was unfazed by the occasion and constructed his innings in a way that it was set-up to launch at the end. And the approach made sense, for that is his biggest strength: his SR at the death jumps to 154 compared to 122.85 and 117.65 in the first two phases of the innings. 

To both his and Netherlands’ dismay, however, the damage inflicted by Campher meant that he had no support, due to which he had to pull the trigger early. And that resulted in his undoing as he departed in the 17th over, trying to smack Adair over long-on.

Skipper Pieter Seelaar struck a fighting 21, but the Netherlands could only stagger to a modest 106 off their 20 overs as Ireland produced the best bowling performance of this T20 World Cup, yet. 

Stirling and Delany get the job done despite early stutter

Kevin O’Brien started with intent, striking two boundaries off his first two balls, but some intelligent line-correction from the Dutch bowlers saw them get the better of the veteran in the fourth over. Skipper Balbirnie’s innings nearly followed the same pattern, and he too perished after smashing consecutive boundaries. Both the batters were a bit over-enthusiastic, and at 36/2, Ireland were in a very slight spot of bother.

However, the Netherlands bowlers did not get a look-in after that. The ever-reliable Paul Stirling and the in-form Gareth Delany, who struck an unbeaten 88 in the warm-up match against Bangladesh, strung together a 59-run stand that all but sealed the game for Ireland.

Delany was the aggressor in the partnership, striking at 152, while Stirling played the role of anchor to perfection. And the chalk-and-cheese approach of the two batters proved to be mighty effective on an Abu Dhabi wicket that started to hold in the second innings. Stirling’s composure kept the Netherlands bowler at bay, while Delany’s aggression ensured that Ireland never got bogged down.

Delany perished in the 13th over with Ireland needing 12 more, but, almost fittingly, the star of the match, Curtis Campher, walked in at No.5 and hit the winning runs. 

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Ireland vs NetherlandsICC World Twenty20, 2021IrelandNetherlandsCurtis CampherPaul StirlingGareth DelanyMax O'Dowd

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