Many considered Ireland’s upset triumph over the unpredictable Pakistan in the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup as an aberration. However, the same cannot be said about their unprecedented triumph over England on Wednesday. Chasing a mammoth target, at one point it seemed that we were in for another disappointingly one-sided affair. But, this was Bangalore and it clearly couldn’t disappoint after delivering a tie on Sunday. Ireland clearly had their task cut out. However, a wonderful, fighting partnership between Kevin O’Brien and Alex Cusack kept them in the hunt till the very end and John Mooney too contributed with a wonderful cameo to see Ireland home.
Kevin’s knock was outstanding to say the least and his confidence amazing. Coming in when it seemed all was lost, he played a blitzkrieg, typical of a rare genius. And that too against a first-class Test bowling outfit. Everyone was aware of his big hitting skills, some of which were evident in the 2007 edition. However, no one expected him to come up with such an exceptional effort. Yes, and this is not an exaggeration. Consider this: the fastest century in the World Cup prior to this game was by Matthew Hayden, which came off 66 balls against South Africa in the 2007 edition of the World Cup. And Kevin has bruised the record by some distance, getting there in 50 balls. It was a brutal effort, which not only sunk the Englishmen in this match, but might have further repercussions as the tournament progresses.
Kevin’s innings was one of the best exhibitions of clean power hitting in recent times. All credit to him and the other Irishmen for achieving what, at one stage, clearly looked the unreachable. The Irish, under Trent Johnston, who was at the crease when the winning runs were hit, were highly impressive in the last edition too. But their win against Pakistan got overshadowed by the sad Bob Woolmer incident. No such thing can deny them credit this time. They ran Bangladesh extremely close in the opening game and their performance against England would give them serious confidence and hopes of progressing into the knockout round. India, who will be taking on the Irish next on Sunday at, where else but Bangalore, better watch out. Ireland, unlike some of the other non-Test playing nations, aren’t here to make up the numbers. They mean serious business.
Even as Ireland celebrate the greatest moment in their cricketing history, England would be battered and bruised to say the very least. The forlorn expression on the faces of players when Kevin, Cusack and Mooney were scripting history, said it all. There were brief moments of joy when inexperience led to two of the three running themselves out. And England celebrated with such valour as if they were the ones on the verge of achieving the unthinkable. But, their joy did not last long as Ireland held their nerves and sealed the game to leave England with egg on their face.
As I have mentioned in one of my previous write-ups, a weak bowling department could hamper England’s progress in the tournament, which seemed all but assured in the beginning. And the prophecy has come true. With this shock loss and the tie against India, which earned them only a solitary point, the Englishmen could be faced with an embarrassingly early exit from the showpiece event of cricket. This is because they still have to face South Africa, Bangladesh and West Indies. And all of they are going to be stern tests for them if their performance in the tournament till date is taken into consideration.
It’s difficult to believe that this was pretty much the same bowling line-up that rattled the Aussies in the Ashes series a few months back. However, their recent one-day form only stands testimony to the fact that the five-day games and one-day internationals are a totally different cup of tea. England’s main worry has to be the form of their strike bowler James Anderson. Andrew Strauss’ go to man in the Ashes, Anderson is struggling so badly that England might even have to contemplate dropping him. But the problem for them is that they never visualised about such a scenario. Their plans were always built around Anderson as the wicket-taker. Unfortunately, the pacer hasn’t managed to do the job for his team. If there has been one criticism of Anderson over the years, it has been that he hasn’t delivered in conditions not conducive to his type of bowling. He should have improved with the amount of experience he has gained over the years. But that hasn’t been the case. So whom to England look up to now? They have Chris Tremlett waiting in the wings. But, will the Englishmen will have the confidence to back him over Anderson in such a crucial tournament and now with things so tight for them.
The only positive for England in all the three games has been their batting. But if their bowling remains below par, no matter how much they put up on the board, they will be run close by most teams. Anderson apart, even Stuart Broad went for plenty, which should also cause a lot of worries to Strauss and co. Among the carnage, only Graeme Swann has stood up to the challenge. But, that can hardly be taken as a positive as he is officially the best-ranked spinner in the world today. Tim Bresnan and Michael Yardy did well against India, but whether they can maintain the same consistency against other sides remains to be seen. If one takes the Irish game into the equation, the signs are far from healthy.
As of now, there are plenty of headaches for Strauss as there doesn’t seem too much going right for his side. To make matters worse, they next face the dangerous South Africans. Apart from putting behind the Irish disaster, England would look to some of their experienced players for inspiration.
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