When the Irish faced the Dutch in the ICC World Twenty20 last March, a spectacular breakdown in communication between William Porterfield and the backroom staff saw the Ireland captain take the field lacking one crucial piece of information.
Porterfield knew a victory over the Dutch would see them pip Zimbabwe to qualify for the second stage of the tournament. He was unaware, however, the men in orange would progress ahead of Ireland and Zimbabwe if they could chase down 190 in 86 rather than 120 deliveries.
The Dutch then smashed a world-record 19 sixes as they passed the target with three balls to spare at Sylhet Stadium to nick top spot.
Cricket Ireland insiders strongly defended their captain after the match, insisting he had checked at the innings break whether there was any scenario where Ireland could lose the match and still progress.
When told no, they say Porterfield was solely focused on winning the game and that the Netherlands’ own 86-ball target was therefore irrelevant. Nonetheless, Porterfield’s decision to admit his ignorance of the regulations during his post-match interviews undoubtedly embarrassed Ireland, and undermined their status as the most professional and well-organised non-Test team in world cricket.
They come into this match at The Village determined to rebuild their reputation by qualifying for tomorrow’s final against either Scotland or Hong Kong, and winning the ICC World Qualifier for a third successive time.
Ireland secured one of the six qualifying spots for the World Twenty20 in India next March by winning their group, but the squad has looked disjointed and uncertain in this tournament following eight years of stability and 11 trophies under former coach Phil Simmons.
Ireland have lost five of their last six completed official T20 internationals against fellow Associate nations — their other wins in this qualifying tournament have come against nations ranked so low they do not have T20I status – and they needed other results to go their way to secure top spot in Group A after shock defeats to Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong. New coach John Bracewell is still adapting to his new role and has been hindered by how few opportunities he has had to work with his England-based players since taking over from Simmons in April.
Niall O’Brien will miss the semi-final against the Dutch with a knee injury, but the Ireland top-order will still comprise five batsmen who have represented English counties in T20 cricket this summer.
As Ireland wicket-keeper Gary Wilson wryly noted, however, those batsmen have got used to flat, batting-friendly pitches in England and have “struggled to adapt to our own conditions” on damp, green and seaming wickets at Stormont and Malahide.
Bracewell will therefore ask Balbriggan all-rounder John Mooney to bat at six against the Netherlands to utilise his experience of Irish conditions.