Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP/Press Association Images Irish all-rounder Paul Stirling in action against the Netherlands earlier today.
# Homeward Bound
Ireland's cricket heroes bow out with victory over Netherlands
Ireland recorded a six-wicket win over the Netherlands in their final game of the 2011 Cricket World Cup this morning.

AFTER FOUR WEEKS filled with more excitement and buzz than many would have ever thought possible, the Irish cricket team bowed out of the 2011 Cricket World Cup earlier today – but not without a bang.

With a 106 from Ryan ten Doeschate helping the Netherlands to a formidable total of 306 all out in Kolkata, Ireland knew that they would have to pull off something special if they were to finish their campaign with a second victory.

In the end, they did so with style as opener Paul Stirling posted the third-quickest century ever seen at the World Cup, clocking up 101 off 72 balls before he was caught by Alexei Kervezee.

By the time of Stirling’s dismissal, Ireland were already well on the road to victory. While the Middlesex man wrote himself into the record books, captain William Porterfield stood tall beside him. Between them, they opened the Irish innings with a massive partnership off 177 without loss before both were dismissed in quick succession shortly after the mid-way point in the innings.

The Irish charge was not to be deterred, however. With sights firmly set on another piece of World Cup history – Ireland’s win today is the third-highest run chase in the tournament – Niall O’Brien took to the crease, posting a fine total of 57 not out which was key to seeing Ireland over the finish line.

As one might expect, the final word went once again to the younger O’Brien, Kevin. At bat for the final fifteen minutes after Gary Wilson was caught behind by Buurman, O’Brien scored 15 off 9 balls, walloping two sixes in the final over to seal another brilliant Irish win.

The Netherlands too will be heading from the tournament after finishing the tournament empty-handed, though they will also be bolstered by the memory of a fine performance against England whom they ran dangerously close in their opening Group B encounter almost a month ago.

Five teams have already booked their places in the quarter-finals – Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Four teams remain in contention for the final three berths with India, England, West Indies and Bangladesh all anxiously awaiting the outcomes of this weekend’s final Group B games. A win over South Africa in Dhaka tomorrow would see Bangladesh progress while India and the West Indies bring the group stages to a close in Chennai on Sunday morning.

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