Early qualification for World Cup is fitting for Simmons’s well-oiled Ireland machine
A common sense of purpose and team ethic marks side out from the rest
Michael Rippon hits a six off the last ball of the match to earn the Netherlands a spectacular tie against Ireland in Amsterdam.
One of the joys of visiting Amsterdam is the wonderful transport system, with trams, buses and trains working in harmony to turn a major European capital in to such a relaxed place, that is once you don’t walk in front of one of the million cyclists that add so much to the city’s way of life.
Watching Ireland’s cricketers earn World Cup qualification there this week with a win and a tie against the Netherlands at the beautiful VRA Cricket Club in Amstelveen showed a team working in harmony towards a joint goal, one achieved with two games still to play and almost 20 months ahead of the 2015 staging of the event in Australia and New Zealand.
Relaxed in each other’s company, both on and off the field, there’s a level of professionalism about how they go about their work which marks them out from the rest of the Associate countries.
It’s a side not dominated by just a few players, but a true unit that, at their best in the field, are a match for any team in the world.
In Sunday’s opening victory, it was that togetherness and sense of common purpose that helped them strangle the Dutch reply to their knock of 236 to bowl the home side out just 148.
Tuesday’s game saw Peter Borren’s side keep alive their hopes of taking the second automatic spot on offer, by earning a tie off the final ball of the game thanks to Michael Rippon’s six off John Mooney.
Level on 15 points with Scotland, the Dutch have a better net run rate and an easier ending to their qualification campaign, with two games against bottom of the table Canada in Toronto in September.
Scotland will head to Belfast needing to win both games, although any hopes Ireland will take the foot off the gas were dispelled by both the coaching staff and players during the week as they look to finish off their campaign in style and record 11 wins from 14 matches.
Afghanistan could still have something to say as they can also make it to 19 points if they win their remaining four matches away to Namibia and against Kenya in their home base of the United Arab Emirates.
It’s not something Ireland will have to worry about and there was a real sense of getting the job done in Amsterdam.
The two Scotland games would have come just after the visit of England to Malahide at the beginning of September, a crazy schedule considering Ireland don’t play another game until the clash with the old enemy on September 3rd.
Ireland coach Phil Simmons was delighted with the additional preparation time now available to his side ahead of the 2015 event, although following September’s games it’s very much a diet of Twenty20 cricket, with the World T20 global qualifier in the UAE in November and the finals themselves in Bangladesh next year.
The International Cricket Council will provide additional funding for sides qualifying for the 2015 World Cup to help preparations, although just how many matches Ireland will be able to organise against Full Member countries in the lead-up to the event is debatable.
What Ireland have shown in the qualification campaign is they are a step, or two, ahead of fellow Associates but often all dressed up with nowhere to go when it comes to trying to sharpen their competitive teeth against the big boys outside of major competitions.
It’s the eternal conundrum for this Ireland side and will only be sorted out when there’s a willingness from both the ICC and the Full Members to allow the top Associates access to the Future Tours Programme that is really just a carve-up between the big boys of the world game.
Then again, the ICC originally planned the 2015 event to be a glorified Champions Trophy of just the 10 top teams, so we’ve come a long way in many respects.
All the way to Australia and New Zealand for a start.