Cricket not a world game?

2011-03-05 00:00

NOW and then in every sport a moment occurs that transcends the mundane to lift spectators into an ethereal world of pure joy. Ireland’s triumph over England fits into that category. It was not an upset. Stomachs have upsets.

It was a mind-boggling feat achieved by a bunch of eager and patronised sportsmen proud of their skills and determined to strike a blow for the underdog.

Here were the Irish all dressed in green and looking like a bunch of leprechauns. Here were the mighty English smacking them around with professional authority. At half-time it seemed to be over.

The Poms had scored a sackload and the chase seemed futile. Heck, the green men were part-timers. Had not the grim faces been saying that they were a waste of space?

Things looked even worse when the Irish captain fell to the very first delivery.

That’s the trouble with sport. In an instant a thousand dreams can be shattered. Had not William Porterfield dreamt as all sportsmen dream the previous night? Had it not take a single ball to remove him? Captains suffering such a fate feel even worse then their charges. The let-down is painful and can affect morale.

But the Irish were having none of that. Nor did the absence of Eoin Morgan, their leading batsmen, affect them. Not that he could have played anyhow. As keen as any other sportsman to test himself he had signed up for England and only injury prevented him playing in this match. England missed him.

So did Ireland and had he played for them, Ireland might have won in a canter.

Nothing looked less likely than an Irish victory as the innings stuttered along. Five wickets were lost and the target was 20 runs away. Even for the most powerful of sides it was a daunting prospect.

But amateurs? Don’t they put on plays attended by the local vicar and the Women’s Guild? Moreover Ireland had already lost a close match. Most observers assumed that had been their chance to shine. As one sage long ago put it, soufflé cannot rise a second time.

Some soufflé.

In this hour of impending defeat the Irish found a champion in a robust red-head going by the name of O’Brien. Irish cricket is full of O’Briens. It appears to be a family business. Of course, the sight of an Englishmen at 22 paces does have a marked effect on any spirited Irishman. Something about potatoes.

Before long O’Brien was laying about himself with the gusto often detected in his ancestors on the battlefield. As far as he was concerned, defeat was not softened. It was to be avoided. If Ireland was to go down it was going to with guns blazing.

And so the cannons were fired, and suddenly the enemy was in full retreat. Afterwards it was reckoned that O’Brien had scored 113 runs in 63 balls.

Even the cold statistics are extraordinary. Indeed the innings was a remarkable mixture of hot and cold. O’Brien did not throw his bat or lose his head. Instead he plotted England’s downfall and did whatever was necessary to achieve that end.

And he found a like-minded partner in Andy Cusack. Accepting his role as the counterpoint, Cusack chipped and chivvied, fed the strike to his rampant colleague and now and then produced a boundary lest the pressure become too intense.

Upon his departure, John Mooney picked up the slack. Despite looking as harmless as chicken soup, the lefty also played the ideal innings and when finally the senior man was taken he was able to finish the job.

Calm till victory had been secured, the Irish charged on to the field and celebrated raucously in its hours of attainment.

It was an astonishing achievement. And it spoke a thousand words about the players and the country and the cause they advance. Ireland want to play proper cricket, Test cricket even, and they had a point to make. Suffice it to say they made it.

Cricket not a world game? Tell that to the Irish and a Dutch team denied its four leading pace bowlers.

The denial of opportunity to these nations in the 2015 World Cup counts among the most disgraceful decisions ever taken by any sporting body. Those responsible ought to be made to watch videos of this match.

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