Ireland start favourites against Netherlands with European Qualifiers in sight

Ireland celebrate a wicket © Oisin Keniry/Cricket Ireland

After Ireland and Scotland, it’s Netherlands turn to return to international cricket from the prolonged hiatus when they take on the hosts Ireland in Malahide in Dublin for a four-match T20I series from Monday (July 26).

Netherlands last played an international match when they lost the fifth-place play-off to Scotland in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in September 2019. Ireland had a successful return to the international arena after a gap of more than 18 months when they defeated Scotland in the four-match T20I series in Belfast by a 3-1 margin.

Despite losing the first match of the Scotland series, Ireland became stronger and stronger as the series progressed and will be starting as favourites against the rusty Netherlands. They aren’t going to take the opposition lightly and allrounder Lara Maritz believes these matches are going to be crucial for Ireland ahead of the European Qualifiers.

“This upcoming series is very important for us as a young team. We played well against Scotland and have worked really hard on our fielding, and I think that has opened a lot of eyes for our young team. We meet Scotland and Netherlands again in the European qualifiers next month so having these two series under our belt can only be good for us,” Maritz said.

One of the most impressive things about Ireland in the Scotland series was the pace bowling with the young Orla Prendergast leading the attack for the hosts with debutant Ava Canning and Maritz also playing crucial roles. They are further bolstered by the return of experienced wicket-keeper Mary Waldron and allrounder Eimear Richardson after having missed the series against Scotland.

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Richardson, in particular, will add a lot of value to the Ireland side with her allround capabilities. Their batting has been largely dependent on Gaby Lewis and she will continue to be the pivot around which their top order will revolve. Shauna Kavanagh, who showed some promise against Scotland, and skipper Laura Delany will also play important roles in the middle order along with Richardson and Waldron.

As for Netherlands, the tour will be a bit of a journey into the unknown after the disappointing T20 World Cup Qualifier and the long break. Even though most of the squad remains the same, they have a new captain in Heather Siegers as she takes over from Juliet Post. But they have two key batters missing in the form of Sterre Kalis, who is playing for Northern Supercharges in The Hundred, and Denis van Deventer. Kalis and van Deventer are the top two run-getters for Netherlands in the format.

This will be the first assignment of newly appointed head coach Shane Deitz and, like Maritz, he also believes the series will help them in the preparation for the European Qualifiers and they have prepared well with their extensive training.

“We have trained and prepared well for five or six months and we are actually tired of training; we want to play good international cricket,” Deitz said.

“It’s an excellent opportunity to play really good cricket against a very good Irish team and in wonderful conditions. It will be a very good preparation for our European T20 qualifier, at the end of August.”

Netherlands will depend on allrounders Heather and Babette de Leede – newly appointed vice-captain in place of van Deventer – to lead the side with the bat as well. Heather will once again be a key figure when it comes to bowling having taken 18 wickets – the most for Netherlands in T20Is – at an average of 16.55 from 15 matches. Leg-spinner Silver Siegers – sister of Heather – and Iris Zwilling are the other frontline bowling options for the visitors.

For Ireland, Delany and Co will draw confidence from their outing against Scotland and will hope to continue to their good run whereas Netherlands need to pull out all the stops to challenge the hosts. Whatever the results are, it’s going to be an interesting series in the context of the Qualifiers for both teams to assess where they stand at the moment.

Ireland start as firm favourites come Monday while Netherlands will be hoping to do what Scotland did in the first match of that series.

Squads:

Ireland: Laura Delany (c), Ava Canning, Rachel Delaney, Georgina Dempsey, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis, Lara Maritz, Sophie MacMahon, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Celeste Raack, Eimear Richardson, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron

Netherlands: Heather Siegers (c), Babette de Leede (vc), Annemijn van Beuge, Annemijn Thomson, Eva Lynch, Frederique Overdijk, Hannah Landheer, Iris Zwilling, Isabel van der Woning, Julia Corder, Juliet Post, Miranda Veringmeier, Robine Rijke, Silver Siegers