Ireland and the Netherlands begin their bids to qualify for the Super 12 of the 2021 ICC T20 Men’s World Cup on Monday. Of the two teams, Ireland enter the tournament in stronger form, having scored victories over Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh in warm-up matches. The Netherlands, meanwhile, arrive at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on the heels of unconvincing showings against Scotland and Oman. They’ll be plenty of star power on display thanks to Netherlands skipper Pieter Seelaar and Ireland’s Paul Stirling, a prolific run scorer.
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Ireland vs. Netherlands Preview
Stirling can be the difference maker thanks to his ability to pile up runs early. He smashed his way to a century against Zimbabwe during a T20I series during the summer, proof of his ability to thrive in this format. Stirling loves the slower pitches in the United Arab Emirates and enters the competition in record-breaking form:
Ireland will set a daunting tally if Stirling delivers what’s expected at the top of the order. His chances of doing so will increase if fellow opener Kevin O’Brien quickly hits his stride. He’s now 37, but O’Brien knows how to deal with every action the ball might take and still strike it cleanly.
Keeping Stirling quiet is a daunting task for any team at this level, but the Netherlands are not likely to be intimidated. Not when coach Ryan Campbell’s team is loaded with match-winners who know to use the ball. The best of the Netherlands’ bowlers is Brandon Glover, a legitimate pacer who can make more than a few batters take a swing and miss.
Theres also a devilish complement for Glover’s fast bowling, thanks to Fred Klaassen. He’s a lefty who can vary the pace between medium and fast. Klaassen’s best game involves generating a terrific bounce off the seams, something that could lull Stirling into an errant swipe or two. So could the left-handed, spinning deliveries from Seelaar, who has been taking wickets at this level for over a decade.
Keeping pace with Ireland’s order won’t be a problem if Max O’Dowd is on form. The 27-year-old can generate awesome power and should relish the steady pace of the pitch in Abu Dhabi. O’Dowd slogged his way to an impressive 133 off 73 balls against Malaysia back in April. He’s not the only hitter in the ranks, though, not with Stephan Myburgh also among the order. He clocked a 43 during a warm-up win over co-hosts Oman recently, a tally that included five fours and a six.
The task of keeping O’Dowd and Myburgh under wraps will likely rest on the right arm of Mark Adair. He can generate speed and also create some tricky action off of the seam. Ireland lack a genuinely dangerous spinner beyond Simi Singh, but this squad isn’t short of pacers, with Craig Young adding more speed to the attack.
Ireland’s strength in depth is questionable, but the individual brilliance of players like Stirling and Adair should tip the balance of the match. A winning start will be a huge boost in a tricky qualifying group also featuring Namibia and Sri Lanka.