Ireland is arguably the ninth best ODI team in the world ahead of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and the giant slayers gave another glimpse of their prowess in the limited overs format by vanquishing a beleaguered West Indies with consummate ease at Nelson, recording the first upset of the 2015 World Cup.
The confidence in the Irish camp can be gauged by their captain William Porterfield’s claim that the win over the Windies is not an upset and that his team is focused on sealing a quarter-final berth. “I don’t see this as an upset. The numbers suggest we have chased down three of the five biggest targets in World Cup history.”
Porterfield must be mighty proud of his team already who after shocking Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup have continued to cause trouble to leading Test playing nations. England were stunned in a run scoring heist in Bangalore in 2011 and now the two-time former world champions have been scalped in the opening match for the Irish team.
Both against England and West Indies the Irishmen chased down 300-plus totals, their third big chase was recorded against the Netherlands in the last World Cup.
Unlike Pakistan, the Irish top-order didn’t look fazed against a demanding run-rate and the psychological pressure of chasing a score in excess of 300. While Ahmed Shehzad and Haris Sohail threw away their starts against the Indians a day earlier Paul Stirling and former England batsman Ed Joyce made match-winning contributions against an experienced and potent bowling attack.
It seems that even the so-called lesser teams have the confidence and oomph in their batting to chase a steep target— a trait that the frail Pakistan batting lacks.
During the England upset Kevin O’ Brien had played a match-winning knock and on Monday it was his brother Niall who guided his team home after a flurry of wickets towards the backend of the chase.
Ireland continue to unravel star players and are fast earning the right to play Test cricket. The ICC must recognise the strength and fighting abilities of this squad and not let them wither away a la the Zimbabwe team of the 90s. The policy makers must invest their time and money and help raise the stakes of Irish cricket further.
Meanwhile, the upset in Nelson has some real repercussions for Pakistan too. Misbah’s charges have to now defeat the West Indies at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval on Saturday following the spineless surrender to India in Adelaide.
A defeat in the second game is likely to ruffle the camp further besides jeopardising the chances of securing a place in the knock-out stage especially if Ireland build further on their amazing start to the tournament.
The West Indies might be a shadow of their former self but the batting performance by Lendl Simmons and Darren Sammy in the face of adversity in Nelson must have warmed the hearts of their supporters and while the bowling looked average in defence of a big score the winners of the first two editions of the World Cup still have enough ammunition to derail Pakistan’s campaign further.
Misbah and his men can’t afford to falter at the Hagley Oval.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2015.