2011 world cup

Random thoughts from the Mohali clash

It has been a long while since the match got over, but the excitement has still not left me. I wish I could analyze the game in a comprehensive manner, but to hell with that. India won! Every time India has moved closer to World Cup glory, memories of the 2003 humiliation at the hands of Punter are being scrubbed away from the recesses of my brain. Now, being one match away from history, I hope India has generated enough momentum to clinch the Cup. It is not going to be easy against the mighty Lankans, but this is the call of destiny for Tendulkar and Zaheer who had a day to forget at Johannesburg eight years ago. Please anwer the call!

Anyway, I stayed up through the night, to watch this game and here are some random thoughts from during the match:

  • When I heard that Dhoni had replaced Ashwin with Nehra, there are no words to describe the feelings of angst and despair which filled me. Sidhu, the master of hyperbole, put it aptly when he stated that it was like ‘a dog going back to its vomit’. Luckily for India, the ‘vomit’ justified Dhoni’s decision (though he admitted that he got it wrong, later) and I duly apologize for my lack of faith.

courtesy: 'Stumped'

  • All Sehwag might have done was to get a quick fire 38, but it was perhaps a more crucial knock than Tendulkar’s, as in a space of two overs he broke Gul down, and neutralized Pakistan’s most impressive fast bowler in this tournament. If Gul had been in a more confident frame of mind, he and Riaz could have terminated the Indian innings early.

Sehwag and Gul (at the end of the match!)

  • I have never been comfortable with equating Tendulkar to God, and today it was proved that a higher being exists; and that He was watching over Sachin. A close lbw decision in favor of the batsman, lucky to survive a stumping opportunity (by Kamran Akmal!) and four dropped catches. The real God gave Sachin many opportunities to reprise the heroics of 2003, but after Tendulkar kept turning Him down repeatedly, a moody God terminated his innings by allowing a catch to finally stick.

  • When Tendulkar finally got out, I breathed a sigh of relief. Whenever Sachin has scored a ton in this World Cup, India have failed to seal the deal. At first, I thought that even the Pakistani fielders were aware of this, and were playing along. Apart from that, this innings was not worthy of a history making 100. Sachin’s sheepish smiles after every reprieve told as much.
  • I hate it when my instincts are right. Well before the game, I felt that it was the unknown commodity (Riaz) who would cause problems for the Indian batsmen; and so he did. In the absence of Amir and Asif, he has stepped in to support Gul appreciably whenever he has got the chance. Today was no different. If the wicket of Sehwag was the first punch, Yuvraj’s dismissal was the knockout blow. Well, as it turned out, someone forgot to mention that to Raina.

  • Raina sure has got big match temperament. He has a history of doing well in the knockout stages of the IPL and the CLT20. In this World Cup, he has already played two crucial knocks in the knockout games against Australia and Pakistan, which should hold him in good stead against the Lankans.

  • With the advent of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, I realized how sensitive I could be to jibes from supporters of the opposition. When Pakistan were on top during a passage of play, some Pakistan supporters took  delight in rubbing it in, and mocking Indian players. It took a lot of self control not to get into a tangle with any of them; of course, this was not limited to the Pakistani supporters as Indians duly returned the favor later. Now, I accept this as part and parcel of following the game online. In the end, it was nice to see tweeters and bloggers (most of them!) from both sides congratulating each other and wishing each one well. Now, thats the spirit!
  • 260 was eventually 20-30 runs short and by the way the pitch was behaving, the decision to leave out Ashwin was turning out to be more and more foolish. Luckily, Munaf and Nehra were spot on throughout the game while Zaheer had an off day (which was due!). Nehra was pretty impressive in the field, and took a pretty decent ‘catch’ too, even though it was not a legitimate one.
  • Trust the Taufel. Always. He is the Tendulkar of umpiring. When he makes a decison, whether out or not out, he does so with utter conviction and self belief, that it could be unnerving to cricketers in the wrong. Three of his decisions were reviewed today and all of them were spot on. If the adjudicators were a little creative, they could have made him man of the match.

'I got this for a reason, you know!'

  • For once, there was nothing unpredictable about the Pakistani batting. Hafeez played an innings which Ian Bell would be proud of (in terms of strokes and dismissal), Younus Khan scratched around without convincing, Umar Akmal dazzled without staying till the end, Afridi got out to a slog, and the most predictable of all – Misbah was the last man dismissed after raising faint hopes of a heist. Memories of the 2007 T20 WC, anyone?

  • Lot of high profile celebs in the house. Apart from the Prime Ministers and politicians, there seemed to be a lot of IPL team owners and other assorted movie stars. How much do you wanna bet that, there is going to be more of them in Mumbai on Saturday?
  • An Indian model has promised to reveal her ‘bare assets’ to the cricketers if they win the World Cup. I wonder now that they have come so close, whether they think that they should reserve the right to choose the celebrity whom they would prefer to see in their bare essentials! Jokes aside, I hope that this does not materialize and the cricketers strongly rebuff any such publicity seeking stunts if they win the World Cup, in what should be a defining moment for this generation of Indian cricketers.
  • Say what you want about Afridi, but he has been Pakistan’s saving grace over the last few months. Ever since the spot fixing scandal broke out, he has handled this team in such an impressive manner that it is hard to see anyone doing a better job. While his batting prowess has disappeared from view, he has been the world’s best ODI spinner and led the team from the front. He was magnanimous in defeat, congratulating the victors and praising his ‘boys’; how can anyone in Pakistan be mad with the team after his sincere apology to them, even when he had nothing to apologize about? If the PCB are wise (thats a big ask!), they will keep Afridi as captain for a bit longer and develop a strong team under him. Well played, Afridi; and thank you for the entertainment!

When Afridi became Flintoff

  • In the end, India won the game pretty convincingly, and they didn’t even play their most effective bowler today. Having faced the heat of two sapping encounters against the Aussies and now the Pakistanis, the atmosphere at Mumbai might seem to be a breeze to them. Well, of course, one should not be complacent against an impressive Lankan outfit, but this is India’s World Cup to lose. For the likes of Tendulkar and Zaheer, this could be one final shot at glory. Hopefully, they will rise to the occasion and deliver a performance worthy of world champions.

Go India!!

(PS: Recently, I had blogged here that I would eat my article if India wins the World Cup. Here’s hoping that they make me eat my own words!)

'Mumbai, here I come!'

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Not sufficiently excited about the Mohali clash?

A World Cup semi final featuring India and Pakistan. It will be the mother of all cricket matches. War sans the weapons. A battle for pride and honor. A blood feud between two warring neighbors.

Yawn.

In truth, it will be a high pressure match between two very talented teams, who will play the game like their lives depend on it (in some cases, their lives do depend on it!). There has been a lot of hype as usual, with politicians and movie stars wanting a piece of the action and the security and secret service are being kept on their toes, but the real pressure will be on the players, who dutifully have to maintain that they feel no pressure at all, in front of the cameras. For the agnostic who wonders what the fuss is all about and who feels left out, take a look below, as to why you should get excited about the Mohali clash:

1. Miandad sets a template for things to come…

2. ‘More’ Miandad (see what I did there?)…

3. Prasad and Sohail share the love in 1996…

4. Kanitkar’s moment in the sun (floodlight!)…

5. Will we see a contest between these two for the final time on Wednesday?

6. Afridi does what he used to do best…

7. Dhoni returns the favor…

8. Its a tie!

9. Misbah gives birth to IPL…

10. Yuvraj and Gul…will we see Act 2 in Mohali?

11. Gambhir and Afridi…all they want is some space..

12. Gambhir’s comments on Akmal’s keeping skills gets him riled up..

13. The last time they met each other…

 

I rest my case.

(If anyone has a problem with my selection of clips, stop whining and let me know which ‘moments’ should make the cut; and I will be gracious enough to add it here….)

Letter to South Africa

So near and yet so far...

Oh South Africa. Your best chance in 19 years to win the World Cup and you ‘Faf-fed’ it. I am not going to say that you choked; because everyone else will, anyway.

This was your year. You had it all. Two of the world’s in form One day batsmen. A world class all rounder and a tough captain. You had two of the world’s most feared fast bowlers. To top it off, you even had three different kinds of spinners! Most importantly, they even managed to turn the ball…

You rolled over all opposition in the league stages, except for England. In fact, the only two games you struggled were the one against England and in the close win against India. Still, everyone believed that they were aberrations. That this was the World Cup where you could go all the way. After all, you have managed to get knocked out of major ICC tournaments in every possible way. Get knocked out due to bizarre rain rule. Check. Get knocked out due to bizarre understanding of bizarre rain rule. Check. Get stuffed by a team who rarely win any games. Check. Come within one run of a final, and then lose your head in a ridiculous run out. Check. Only the 2007 World Cup semi final loss was the result of a superior team having its own way with you. Still, you managed to make it easy for them with some daft shot selections.

So what could you possibly do this time? You had an easy quarterfinal match lined up with the Kiwis, who had 5 overs of mayhem against Pakistan to thank for their one meaningful victory in the league stages. Their big players were coming off injuries, and they could have been forgiven for just wanting to compete with you on an even scale before getting knocked out. It was no horror pitch, even as it was slow; and the bowlers were disciplined while not threatening. Their fielding was brilliant, but it was always going to be the case.  There was no sane person outside New Zealand, who would have predicted that you could screw this up.

Well, as it turned out, you did. From 108/2 to 172 all out, it was the same old story. In 1999, I watched with disbelief and shock as you squandered a golden opportunity for your first World Cup triumph. This time, I watched with resignation and a little amusement as you contrived to do it again. While I was not as gutted for you as I was then, it was still sad to see the best team in the competition go out.

What now? Who is going to take over the ship? Smith did a fine job for the last 8 years, and he can hold his head high; but someone else will have to stand up, and start from square one. As much as you hate the term ‘chokers’, there is only one way that it ever gonna go away. Win a World Cup.

Well played guys, and thanks for the entertainment against England, India and New Zealand. Cheers!

Yours truly,

tracer007

Never say never – Destiny beckons Pakistan

Can Pakistan really win this World Cup?

I was one of many who severely doubted their chances at the outset of this tournament. After all, they had a disastrous run up to the Cup. Two of their world class bowlers were lost to a fixing scandal. Their board chief seemed more intent on spreading conspiracy theories than doing anything useful for the team. There was also the confusion over the captaincy, with the board not finalizing the skipper, till a couple of weeks before the tournament started.

Coming to the team itself, I didn’t believe that the batsmen will be reliable enough for the duration of this tourney. To some point, that has been vindicated with no Pakistan batsmen in the top 20 highest run getters. I also believed that apart from Gul and Afridi, they didn’t have enough firepower to bowl out or contain the opposition. In that regard, I was partially right. Seems, Gul and Afridi with a little help from Hafeez and Rehman is all they need.

While many like to tag the Pakistan team as ‘unpredictable’ (the same way the Saffers will always be considered ‘chokers’), there has been nothing unpredictable about this side. I suspect that this is due to the wise heads of the coach and manager. Together with the wild Afridi, they have fashioned a team which has had clear game plans for each match and who seem intent on proving their detractors wrong. West Indies was just a footnote in a surprisingly consistent campaign so far, and suddenly despite the presence of Sri Lanka and South Africa, Pakistan can consider themselves as serious contenders for the Cup.

So, what is the secret? What do they have, that the top ranked sides like India and Australia do not look as confident as Pakistan? For one, they have a talented and varied bowling attack which is the envy of the aforementioned two teams. Umar Gul has been an underrated bowler for a long time due to the presence of more charismatic and controversial fast bowlers, but in this World Cup, he has risen to the occasion and set the tone for the rest of the attack. Shahid Afridi cannot be considered a batsman or an allrounder any more, but there is no doubt that he is the most dangerous spinner in ODIs. Along with Gul, he has run through all lineups Pakistan have encountered, making the sight of him holding his arms aloft, very common. Hafeez has also been a handy customer with his darting off spin while Rehman and Razzaq have made sure that there is no respite for the opposition. Most importantly, except for the late overs carnage against New Zealand, they have put in consistent performances, game after game.

While the batting may not have been as impressive as the bowling, they have invariably done the job required of them. With the experience of Younis Khan and Misbah backing up the talents of Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq, they have a middle order who have rarely collapsed in a heap this tournament. And now, in Kamran Akmal and Hafeez, they seem to have stumbled on to an opening pair who have succeeded after umpteen tries; but the biggest reason to hope for Pakistan, is the improved wicket keeping by Kamran Akmal. If he can somehow hold on to every chance that comes his way, Pakistan might have won half the battle.

Pakistan have historically performed well when the world discounts them. It has been a horrid couple of years for them, what with all the bans, scandals, and inability to play international games at home; but it is precisely in these kind of situations, they seem to tap into some hidden reserve of determination and will power to confound their critics. This World Cup has all the makings of another glorious chapter in Pakistan cricket. A player who might never even be considered as a captain in any other side, leading a band of no-hopers to World Cup glory is the stuff dreams and Hollywood movies are made of. Destiny is calling the Pakistan cricket team forward and the time is ripe for Afridi and his boys to grab the moment.

So, can they do it? Can Pakistan win the 2011 World Cup?

As a wise Bieber once said/sang ————— Never Say Never

 

If India wins the World Cup, I will eat this post

Thats it. I finally give up, any hope of India winning this World Cup. The batting is shaky, the bowling is unreliable and the fielding is atrocious. The only reason India managed to win against the West Indies was because the Windies were even worser.

They now face Australia in the second quarterfinal. Given, the Aussies have not exactly inspired confidence in this campaign either; but the form of Lee, Watson and Hussey might just see them through.

Even if they make it past the Aussies, they will most probably run into Pakistan. India have never lost a World Cup match to their arch rivals, but given the way Pakistan has been stitching together their performances, that streak might come to an end.

If India do make it to the final despite overcoming these teams, they will run into either Sri Lanka or South Africa. Simply put, there will no place to hide for the inconsistent performances by this Indian team.

Ashwin’s inclusion has made the bowling look better, but the fact still remains, that they are one of the most non-threatening attacks in the competition. Fielding has never been India’s strong suit, and unfortunately that will be exploited against the top teams. The sudden decline in the team’s batting fortunes, especially during the batting powerplay adds to Dhoni’s headaches. One solution is to bat second on winning the toss, as it will atleast give the batsmen a clear goal and game plan; but given the way they chased against Ireland and Netherlands, I’m not too optimistic about this either.

So, I have steeled myself for an impending exit, so that I may not spiral into depression, like I did after the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. India just don’t have the team to win this World Cup. So, in the spirit of David Frith, I will eat my words if India lift this World Cup. Of course, since this is the digital age, I will have to take a print-out of this article and do it!

I am a man of my word.

Why out-choking South Africa was the result India needed

9 wickets for 29 runs. Pause for a moment and let that sink in. Even if the pitch was a mine field and the bowlers delivering unplayable deliveries ball after ball, there is simply no excuse for the best batting line up in the world to implode in such a spectacular manner. It was a choke of the highest order, and the South African team would have appreciated that. Then in the second innings, India did pretty well to keep them to 284 with 13 runs to get at the start of the final over. Then Dhoni threw the ball to Nehra; and I immediately expected South Africa to win with a ball to spare. As it turned out, Peterson didn’t even wait till then. I was so stressed out with the result, that I literally had a migraine attack for the next few hours!

Still, now that I have had time to calm down and think about it, this might be the best result for India at this stage. As Dileep Premachandran pointed out in a tweet during the game, a loss will be the only outcome which will force Dhoni’s hand, to make changes to the bowling line up. Why Dhoni went with three pacers against a team like South Africa who struggle against spinners, is beyond me. Having Munaf and Nehra play in the same game is a recipe for disaster and Dhoni paid for stubbornly sticking to whatever game plan he had in his head. How India would have loved to have Ashwin bowling in the batting power play, when De Villiers and co took off! The time for experimentation and improving ‘mental strength’ of players is over – Ashwin has to come in, and Nehra has to sit out. I am not a big fan of Munaf, but compared to Nehra, he has shown more discipline and skill while bowling during crucial phases of the game. Still, it was sad that while Zak was bowling his heart out with skill and precision, the other pacers couldn’t support him. Harbhajan bowled better than his figures suggest, and hopefully this result will stoke his ego and bring out the best in him for the next game.

It was a strange kind of day, where India regressed on one area of their game which is their strength and improved in an area which is their traditional weakness. Batting has always been India’s forte, and after reaching 267/1 in 39 overs, one would have expected a minimum score of 350 with the likes of Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan to come in. The events following the exits of Tendulkar and Gambhir still rankle, and I won’t dwell much on it; but Dhoni hit the nail on the head, when he suggested that the batsmen shouldn’t have played to the gallery. With the quick fall of the settled batsmen, it was a time to play safe for a few overs and then cut loose. Instead, Pathan, Yuvraj, Harbhajan all fell to glory shots, when the need of the hour was to hit and run in the presence of a brilliant bowling and fielding effort by the South Africans. Even if we had stumbled on to 320, we could have made a better fist of it. As in the case of Zaheer on the bowling front, all the good work done by Sachin and Sehwag went to nought after the poor follow up by the middle and lower order. Still, I feel that the batting is in good hands, and it is a matter of realizing now that it is never a good time to become complacent. From now on, the batsmen will do well to remember the great implosion at Nagpur when they face off against other teams in the future, and bat according to the situation.

As for the traditional weakness, if at all there is something Dhoni can be happy about, it is the fielding. It still wasn’t perfect, with a couple of dropped catches and singles allowed to be converted into twos, but overall, there was a marked improvement in the fielding. Fielders who usually love to escort the ball to the boundary, now put in dives to ensure that there wouldn’t be any freebies for the batsmen. Kohli, Sehwag, Harbhajan and even Tendulkar at some point, would have gladdened Dhoni’s heart, who might actually start to believe now that there IS a way for the fielding standards to improve. Hopefully, they can sustain the same kind of intensity in the next game as well.

A brief mention about the behavior of Bhajji. While I do not condone abuse of any kind, I think it is important to remember that not every bowler can be a Murali, who responds with a grin when he picks up a wicket. There was a lot of consternation in the twitter-sphere and Cricinfo live comm feedback section over Harbhajan’s reaction to De Villiers’ wicket; and while I belive that it is not necessary for a feisty send off to the dismissed batsman, I believe that players like Bhajji need that kind of spark to play better. It is not pretty to watch, but neither is it pretty to see that when Steyn reacts in almost a similar manner.

So there it is. I needed to get that of my chest. While India are still searching for a convincing victory in this campaign, I feel that things are slowly falling into place. I believe that we have finally stumbled on to our best combination. The only change I would bring about is the inclusion of Ashwin in place of Nehra. The bowling and fielding showed signs of improvement, while one bad day at the office will not erase the fact that the Indian batting is still the best in the business. If all these areas of India’s game comes together, India might just be glad for that loss to South Africa, which would have prompted a re-think of their strategy and emboldened their players to play better.

Ashwin, Chawla and the spin conundrum

R Ashwin and P Chawla. These are two cricketers who are under the spotlight as India head towards the decisive phase of the tournament.

Chawla was a surprise pick in the World Cup squad, and was widely believed (at least, by me!) that he would remain a passenger for the duration of the tournament; but one match winning spell against Australia in the warm up game convinced Dhoni that he would be the 2nd choice spinner, at least for the initial phase of the tournament.

R Ashwin, on the other hand, was widely considered to be the best One Day spinner in India and there were not many murmurs when was picked in the squad. While Chawla walked away with the credits in the warm up, Ashwin himself had a good game, never letting the Aussie batsmen get away after he had scored a vital 25 runs in the Indian innings. Still, Dhoni overlooked him, and at that time I believed the reason being, that having an extra off spinner to complement Harbhajan and Pathan would be  useless anyway. Well of course, only Dhoni can come up with the interesting explanation he offers.

“You want your bowlers to be in a very good mental state in the second half of the tournament, where you play against the best teams and you will be participating in the knock-out stages – that was one of the main reasons why we picked Piyush ahead of Ashwin.”

Going by this reason, Dhoni has high opinions of Ashwin, and it is a matter of one, or two games at the most before he gets a look in. Of all people, Dhoni knows enough about Ashwin, having captained him for over three seasons in the IPL, and I believe him when he says that Ashwin has the mental strength to come in and perform straight away in a crucial game. Still, one must temper that with the knowledge that Ashwin is not Tahir or Murali, to come in and run through any line up. He is going to offer control, and let the other bowlers reap the rewards off his hard work.

This is why I fear the media hype. Right now, the experts would have you believe that Ashwin can single handedly improve the Indian bowling; but the truth is, he offers more when it comes to the Power Play and will keep the opposition batsmen honest. Chawla has gone for a lot of runs in the tournament so far, but compared to the resident spinner-in-chief, he was the most likely one to take wickets. The only spinner who has managed to find a balance between taking wickets and keeping the run rate down is the other Singh.

So, it is a tricky decision for Dhoni to make. While popular opinion swings towards Ashwin, one must realize that he can only do so much. Should Chawla play against South Africa and take a bucket load of wickets, it will change the whole dynamics again. For my penny’s worth, it wouldn’t hurt to try what South Africa did in their game against West Indies: play three specialist spinners and open the bowling with an offie (preferably, Ashwin)!

Ireland + Cricket = World Cup Magic

The Purple Haired Beast!

Just when one thought that the India-England game could not be bettered as the game of the tournament, Bangalore was treated to its second thriller in four days. England have taken part in both, and despite scoring in excess of 300 in both matches, they haven’t managed to secure a win in either. Its hard to see them regroup in this tournament, after two matches which must have exhausted them physically and mentally; then again, as Ireland showed, nothing is certain in this edition anymore.

Where to begin? One can carp on about England’s dismal bowling and fielding; or even the failed acceleration in the dying overs of their innings. Anderson’s rapid decline and England’s absent lower order are some of the topics which one can talk about; but to do so would be distracting from the main story. Ireland, in particular Kevin O’Brien, played out of their skins to secure one of the most famous upsets in World Cup history.

Most upsets have a common thread. They would all be low scoring thrillers, where a couple of bowlers and a bunch of charged up fielders ruthlessly exploit the opposition’s complacency to bowl them out for a low score. The team causing the upset would barely do better, with one or two key batsmen carrying their team across the line, just in time or with a few wickets to spare.

Here too, one batsman played the main role, supported by a couple of key contributions; and Ireland scraped through in the last over with 3 wickets to spare. This is where the similarities end. For, the magnitude of Ireland’s achievement on March 2, 2011 was much, much bigger than your usual upset.

For one, they played in the backdrop of the ongoing controversy over the ICC booting the Associate nations out of the next World cup. They were also coming to Bangalore on the back of a demoralizing defeat to Bangladesh, in a game which they should have won. They were facing off against an opponent who had just days previously tied, in a high scoring game with India.  When the game got underway, things got only worse.

They let England rack up 327 runs, and in reply stumbled to 111/5 at the halfway mark. This was supposed to be the cue for the Associate nation to get rolled over after a flurry of rash shots, or after gifting their wickets away to a hat-trick performance by the opposition’s strike bowler.

Instead, a 29 year old electrician/cricketer decided that this was the time to regale the few Irish supporters who had come to the ground, so that they may leave home with at least a few memories to cherish.

Sixes and fours started to rain from the bat of Kevin O’Brien, who reached his fifty in quick time; and in the company of Cusack, he began to build a partnership which the pair realized quickly, could turn their fortunes around. Cheered on by vociferous supporters (both Irish and Indian) and a hopeful dressing room, O’Brien, Cusack, and later Mooney and Johnston stole the most stunning victory from a shell shocked English camp.

Most impressive was O’Brien, who emulated his brother Niall (of 2007 Pakistan upset fame) in leading an upset over a full ICC member nation. Statistics will show that he broke the record for the fastest World Cup ton by a margin of 16 balls (!) and that his 113 runs consisted of 88 runs through boundaries alone. What they will not tell is the calm and clinical way he dismantled the bowling. Like Pollard and Pathan, he chose which deliveries to hit wisely, and once he committed to it, there was only one way the ball was heading. Calls for an IPL contract might be premature, but if he can sustain these kind of performances, he can turn out to be one of the most dangerous batsmen in the shorter format. After all John Davison announced himself with a 67 ball hundred in a World Cup match too, but since then, he doesn’t have much to show.

One cannot forget the contributions from Cusack, Mooney and Johnston. Cusack played the most mature innings under the circumstance, wisely feeding strike to O’Brien and making sure that the run rate wouldn’t flag. Mooney, and later Johnston ensured that all the hard work done by the 6th wicket pair was not wasted, by duly sealing the deal.

The Irish are known for their celebrations, and there is no doubt that the party would have lasted late into the night. For many of the supporters, it was not just any victory; an Irish victory over England in any sport is cherished, and to beat the English in a game which they are vastly superior made it Ireland’s greatest sporting moment. Now, the sport is sure to win new fans in the country for this reason alone! What a pity, that they might not feature in the next edition..

You sure can play cricket, Ireland..

(For my penny’s worth, I feel that the move to prune the number of teams in the next World Cup to be a step in the right direction. I don’t agree with it in entirety, as I feel Associate nations should be included; just that only the top two associates should feature. eg: Netherlands, Ireland. This will be incentive for other nations to improve their performance, and drastically reduce the number of mismatches like the ones involving Canada and Kenya. For, I long to see a World Cup one day, when Afghanistan will be competing for the World Cup with Ireland in the final!)

So, where to now, Ireland? A miraculous chase will not paper over their bowling. Rankin, Dockrell, Mooney, Johnston and Stirling will need to be consistent in every match of the group phase, to give their batsmen a decent chance of winning any game, and thereby progressing to the next phase.For that matter, the Irish top order has not exactly covered itself in glory over the last two matches, but in Porterfield, Joyce and the O’Brien brothers, they have quality batsmen who cannot fail for long. All in all, Ireland have served notice to the rest of their group, that they cannot be considered just ‘another’ Associate nation. If teams like India and West Indies take them lightly, they will do well to remember Strauss’ shocked expression at the end of another pulsating encounter at Bangalore.

Oh, and GO IRELAND!