The Netherlands edged out Ireland by a single run in the first ODI at SV Kampong in Utrecht today, despite Josh Little's bowling heroics and a stubborn innings by Paul Stirling for the visitors.
After winning the toss and opting to bat first, the Dutch made a solid start with openers Stephen Myburgh and Max O’Dowd finding the boundary with regularity.
However, with the score at 51-1 after 10 overs, the game’s momentum shifted substantially within the space of seven balls.
Captain Andrew Balbirnie made bowling changes at both ends and was immediately rewarded with Simi Singh trapping O’Dowd LBW for 23 off his second ball.
Left-arm paceman Little removed Ben Cooper (6) and Pieter Seelaar (0) from his first and third balls in a torrid over for the Dutch batters. Through sheer pace, Little then induced Scott Edwards (1) to play on in the next over, to reduce Netherlands to 53-5.
Saq Zulfiqar (23) and Bas de Leede (21) attempted to stabilise the innings with a 49-run stand, but both fell in the space of five balls to leave Netherlands at 102-7 in the 33rd over. Zulfiqar will be particularly disappointed, being run out taking a seemingly straightforward single but didn’t ground his bat, and a direct hit from Andy McBrine caught him short.
Timm van der Gugten (49) and Logan van Beek (29) combined to add what proved to be match-winning late runs, and the Netherlands were all out off the last ball of their innings for 195.
For Ireland, Josh Little (3-32) made life uncomfortable through pace and bounce, and Craig Young (3-34) delivered a nagging line and length that kept the pressure on. Spinners Simi Singh and Andy McBrine bowled 19 overs between them, conceding just 59 runs and taking a wicket apiece.
Needing to get off to a positive start, Ireland was soon in trouble losing three wickets in the first three overs – with the tall paceman van Beek following up his good knock claiming two big scalps in William Porterfield (5) and Balbirnie (4).
Paul Stirling and George Dockrell sought to consolidate the innings and shared a patient 32-run stand, but Dockrell was beaten by pace and low bounce to be bowled for 11. Lorcan Tucker (8) looked to take a positive approach but was trapped LBW by Dutch captain Seelaar, the first of his three wickets.
At 69-5, Ireland’s innings looked adrift, with all hopes pinned to Stirling. Simi Singh looked to be that man and the pair put on 76 for the sixth wicket to put Ireland back in the match. Then, when both batters looked in control, it was Stirling who fell for 69 to a low catch at cover by Seelaar.
Singh and Andy McBrine then combined for a 43-run stand that looked likely to carry Ireland to a win, but Seelaar then brought himself back on and the left-arm spinner snared two vital wickets in the 47th over to swing the game back to the home side.
Whichever team could hold their nerve would prevail, and it was the Dutch side who - with Ireland needing 12 off the last over to win - stood tall. Logan van Beek displayed adept death bowling and the Irish side fell short by a solitary run.
The two sides will return to the same ground for the second ODI on Friday.
Netherlands: 195 (50 overs; T van der Gugten 49; J Little 3-32, C Young 3-34)
Ireland: 194-9 (50 overs; P Stirling 69, S Singh 45; P Seelaar 3-27)