Specials – When Ireland squandered a massive opportunity to topple the champions

  Ireland are set to take on World Cup champions Australia in a much-awaited one-off ODI match at the Civil Service Cricket Club ground in Belfast in two days’ time. This will be only the second ODI on Irish soil this summer, the first being an abandoned game against England in May.

  Thursday’s match will be Australia’s third ODI in Ireland after having played once each in 2010 and 2012. While the 2012 match in Belfast lasted just 10.4 overs before rain played spoilsport, the 2010 meeting at Dublin resulted in a narrow win for Australia.

  As is the case today, Australia were the defending World Cup champions back in 2010 as well and that too for eleven years running. The ODI against Ireland, played at the Clontarf Cricket Club ground on June 17, was a precursor to Australia’s five-match ODI series in England.

  Coming into this match, Australia had notched nine successive ODI series wins in the past year, which included the 2009 Champions Trophy. Ireland on the other hand had played just one ODI in the last ten months – against the West Indies at Kingston. In the 2009 season, they had fell short by just three runs against England at Belfast.

  Ireland of course had gained the reputation of ‘giant killers’ after their memorable 2007 World Cup campaign during which they beat Pakistan and Bangladesh and tied with Zimbabwe. Their narrow defeat to England in 2009 further showed that they were not a team to be taken lightly, especially in home conditions.

  This was Ireland’s second ODI against Australia, the first being in the 2007 World Cup at Bridgetown, where they were rolled over for just 91 en route a thumping nine-wicket defeat. Slightly overcast weather and packed stands greeted the teams in a match largely considered as a ‘warm-up’ for Australia before they faced England.

  Ricky Ponting won the toss and decided to bat on a sluggish pitch conducive to the Irish medium pacers. The batsmen’s rustiness was evident as they failed to get on top of a disciplined Irish attack. Shane Watson departed in as early as the fifth over, edging one to wicketkeeper Gary Wilson off Boyd Rankin (2/45) with the score at 20.

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        The Irish players celebrate after Paul Stirling dismissed Australian captain Ricky Ponting at Clontarf in 2010 (source – patrick bolger/ gettyimages/ zimbio.com)

  Wicketkeeper Tim Paine and Ponting combined for a second-wicket stand of 66, but the run rate stayed below four an over. With the score at 86, Paul Stirling’s part-time off-spin got rid of Ponting as the star batsman found Andrew White at deep mid wicket. In the very next over, Michael Clarke was out stumped for a duck off Alex Cusack (2/38). 

  Clarke’s dismissal was a close call but the doubt could not be clarified – there was no third umpire for this match. Australia were now 86/3 and had to rebuild the innings. Paine found support in Cameron White and the pair steadily revived their team with a fourth-wicket partnership of 62 before White fell to Stirling (2/34) for 42.

  Australia battled to 162/4 as the final ten overs began, the ground now blazing in sunshine. In the 44th over, the O’Brien brothers combined to dislodge Paine – the batsman clipped a Kevin O’Brien delivery that went straight to Niall O’Brien at mid wicket. The reliable Michael Hussey too fell in exactly the same mode two overs later.

  Nathan Hauritz struck a few meaty blows at the death as Australia collected 21 from the final three overs. He became the third consecutive batsman to fall to a ‘c. O’Brien, b. O’Brien’ dismissal. The final total was an uninspiring 231/9, with Paine top-scoring with a patient 81 off 122 balls which included five fours and two sixes.

  Ireland’s tidy bowling reflected in the scorecard as only one bowler went for more than 4.5 an over. Kevin O’Brien was the pick with 3/43 off his ten overs while Rankin, Cusack and Stirling all scalped two wickets each.

  There was genuine optimism among the locals as the chase began – the moderate target was certainly attainable. Soon, the Australian bowlers were at the receiving end of a breathtaking batting display from openers Stirling and captain William Porterfield.

  Porterfield set the tone with three boundaries off Ryan Harris in the second over. Stirling greeted Doug Bollinger by smashing fours off his first two balls before hitting two more off Clint McKay in the following over. After four overs, Ireland were cruising at 42/0 and a shock victory now seemed closer to reality.

  Porterfield hit the first six of the innings in the tenth over as he tonked McKay over square leg and into the crowd. The openers had made full use of the powerplay and the score at the ten-over mark read an astonishing 76/0. The game was Ireland’s to lose. However soon, inexperience proved to be their undoing.

One Day International 17/6/2010 Ireland vs Australia Ireland's Paul Stirling celebrates with William Porterfield Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

       Irish openers Paul Stirling (left) and captain William Porterfield added a rapid 80 runs before the innings fell away (source – INPHO/ james crombie/ cricketireland.ie)

  Harris provided the breakthrough by castling Stirling for 36 in the eleventh over. After an opening stand of 80, all Ireland needed were a couple of cool heads to see them through to a historic win. If only it was so simple against the world’s best ODI team.

  A buoyed Harris struck in his next over as well as he trapped Wilson plumb in front. Just four balls later, Hauritz bowled Porterfield for 39 with his off-spin. Ireland had now lost three wickets for just six runs and Australia were well and truly clawing back into the contest.

  Niall O’Brien and Cusack put the chase back on track with a fourth-wicket alliance of 51. At the end of 24 overs, the hosts required just 95 runs more with seven wickets in hand. However, they had reckoned without James Hopes, whose right-arm medium pace was perfect for the pitch.

  After a tight first two overs, Hopes had Cusack (30) LBW in his third to reduce Ireland to 137/4. In the next over, Hauritz further unsettled the Irish fans by accounting for the key wicket of Niall O’Brien, caught behind by Paine.

  Nerves were quickly tightening as the last recognised batting pair of Kevin O’Brien and White got together. Ireland’s wings had been clipped and the gulf between the teams’ experience was now showing. After having dealt with the faster bowlers with ease, the batsmen unravelled against Hopes.

  Hopes had both White and O’Brien caught behind in successive overs to shatter the Irish dream. The score now read 150/7 with a full 19 overs yet remaining. It was too tall a task for the Irish tail as Hopes completed his five-wicket haul by bowling Trent Johnston and then having Peter Connell LBW in successive balls in his ninth over.

  Having bowled unchanged since the 20th over, Hopes turned out to be Australia’s saviour with a career-best spell of 9-3-14-5. From 137/3, Ireland had crumbled to 156/9 after 35 overs. The last pair of John Mooney and Rankin kept things interesting with a stand of 36, but it was too little, too late.

  The innings ended when Mooney, who scored a valiant 38, edged Shane Watson to Ponting at mid wicket. Ireland were bowled out for 192, falling 39 runs short with a full eight overs left unused. Australia were no doubt relieved, while Ireland were left to ponder at what might have been. Hopes was rightly named man of the match.

James Hopes celebrates with teammates after dismissing Peter Connell.

       James Hopes gets mobbed by his teammates after he dismissed Peter Connell. Hopes took 5/14 to spearhead Australia to a hard-fought victory (source – AFP/ smh.com.au)

  Australia had somehow squeezed out a victory after facing a very real prospect of going down to the Irish – a defeat which would have drawn parallels with their loss to Bangladesh at Cardiff in 2005. Hopes admitted the team were rusty after a lengthy break from 50-over cricket and that they had to dig deep to achieve the win.

  “They got off to a blistering start and they were in a position to put us away, and we were fortunate to get out. Fortunately we brought it back in the middle overs and you could look at it that we got out of jail “, said Hopes after the match. 

  Porterfield was understandably disappointed at having let go of such a big chance. “We had them right on the back foot,” he said. “It was ours to lose and we let it slip. It’s pretty disappointing from the position we were in, especially after the first 10-12 overs. We took the game to them. We definitely put them under pressure.”

  Later in the season, Ireland achieved their first home ODI win against a Test nation when they beat Bangladesh by seven wickets at Belfast. In 2013, they twice came agonisingly close to beating Pakistan at home before conceding a 1-0 defeat in the two-match series, tying the first and losing the second. 

 One wonders how much Ireland would have benefitted had they beaten Australia that day. Would they have secured regular fixtures against top opposition? Would they have come closer to Test status? Or would the ICC have simply turned a blind eye, as was the case after Ireland beat England at the 2011 World Cup?

  As Thursday beckons, can Ireland go one step further and record a maiden victory over the Australians? It will certainly not be easy against the side which emphatically regained the World Cup earlier this year. But with the stout-hearted Irishmen, never say never.

Match Scorecard – http://www.espncricinfo.com/england-v-australia-2010/engine/current/match/426384.html

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Famous Test Matches – Sri Lanka v South Africa, Kandy, 2000

  South Africa came into this three-match series riding on a rich vein of form, having won their past five series and losing just one of their last 17 Tests. Five months earlier, they had secured a 2-0 sweep in India and now aimed at repeating the dose in Sri Lanka on their second tour of the country, the first being in 1993 when they won 1-0.

  But the off-field happenings could not have been more contrasting. These successes had come under the captaincy of Hansie Cronje, who was now a fallen figure after having admitted to match-fixing. Since the Indian tour, which was the focal point of the scandal, South African cricket had turned upside down and it was up to new captain Shaun Pollock to restore the team’s credibility.

  In the first Test at Galle, South Africa ran into a Sri Lankan outfit smarting from a 2-0 reversal at home against Pakistan just three weeks earlier and were drubbed by an innings and 15 runs. The South African batsmen were bamboozled by the wiles of Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 13 wickets in the match.

  A week after the lopsided opening duel, the teams met at the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy for the second Test, played from July 30 to August 2. A year ago, Sri Lanka had posted a landmark win – which ultimately gave them the series – against Australia at this venue and now were well poised to secure a maiden series win over South Africa as well.

  Sanath Jayasuriya opted to field after winning the toss, hoping that his bowlers would extract the maximum from the pitch which was initially a dry turner tailor-made for spin, but attained a fair share of moisture due to heavy rain prior to the opening day. It was evident that batting would be a challenge from the very outset.

  Pacemen Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa struck gold immediately, respectively sending back openers Gary Kirsten and Neil McKenzie for ducks within the first two overs. The introduction of off-spinners Muralitharan and Kumar Dharmasena only worsened things for the visitors. 

zzzulu      Lance Klusener struck an unbeaten 118 in the first innings to steer South Africa to safety from the depths of 34/5 (source – espncricinfo.com)

  Dharmasena castled Daryll Cullinan and Jonty Rhodes while ‘Murali’ accounted for Jacques Kallis at the other end. With the top five back in the pavillion, South Africa were tottering at 34/5 in the 19th over and could not have imagined a worse start to such a crucial Test match. 

  However, they found their saviours in Lance Klusener and Mark Boucher, who combined for a fortune-changing century stand at a fast clip. The two forged 124 runs in 33.1 overs for the sixth wicket – mixing caution with timely aggression – before Boucher was run out for a gutsy 60.

  Pollock and Nicky Boje then fell in successive balls to Upul Chandana’s leg-spin, the score now reading 173/8. But Klusener carried on with intent and added 37 with Paul Adams for the ninth wicket and a priceless 43 with Nantie Hayward for the tenth. 

  ‘Zulu’ remained unbeaten on 118 off 219 balls – his third Test hundred and arguably his finest innings ever – as South Africa wound up at a respectable 253. He hit 13 fours and two sixes and showed great application in keeping the spinning trio – who took seven wickets between them – at bay. Sri Lanka ended an absorbing first day at 15/0.

  Openers Marvan Atapattu and Jayasuriya adopted a patient approach on the second morning as they realised 53 runs. Atapattu added another 56 with Russel Arnold for the second wicket as he frustrated the bowlers with his copybook technique. He was joined by Arjuna Ranatunga at 182/4 and the pair steered Sri Lanka to a lead of seven by the end of the day, with Atapattu on 107*.

  Atapattu and Ranatunga stretched their partnership to 104 before Pollock trapped the former in front early on day three for 120 from 292 balls with 15 fours. This led to a lower-order collapse as South Africa fought back with quick wickets. Ranatunga was sixth out for 54, contentiously given LBW off a rising Hayward delivery.

  The batsmen to follow failed to last long and the last six wickets thus fell for just 22 runs in 7.1 overs. Pollock was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets. Trailing by 55, South Africa again began poorly, with Zoysa removing McKenzie for the second time in the match with the score at 10.

  Kirsten too fell cheaply, bowled by Dharmasena, and when Muralitharan got rid of Cullinan, South Africa were three down and still behind by five runs. Kallis put his hand up amid the crisis and produced a solid innings under pressure on a tough pitch. He found support in Rhodes, with whom he shared a fourth-wicket stand worth 71.

zzkallor     Jacques Kallis’ solid 87 in the second innings gave South Africa an opportunity in spite of conceding the first-innings lead (source – gettyimages)

  Jayasuriya then dented the visitors with a key double-strike within the space of seven runs. He had both Rhodes and Klusener caught behind by young wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara to reduce the score to 128/5. Kallis looked good for a hundred but was castled by Muralitharan for 87 off 208 balls with six fours and a six.

  Kallis’ dismissal meant that South Africa were ahead by 131 with just two wickets in hand. They ended the third day placed at 192/8. However on the fourth day, the Proteas’ tail wagged again – Boje and Adams put on 45 for the ninth wicket before Chandana dismissed the former and Hayward in four balls to restrict the final total to 231.

   Not surprisingly, the spinners took eight of the wickets. Sri Lanka were thus left with over five sessions to score 177 runs and seal their first series win against South Africa. While the hosts had banked on their spinners, South Africa needed a good show from their fast bowlers to make a match of it.

   They indeed provided the perfect start. Pollock had first-innings centurion Atapattu LBW off the very first ball of the chase. At the other end, Hayward sent back the dangerous Jayasuriya in the same manner off his first ball before having Mahela Jayawardene caught behind four balls later.

  With both the openers out for golden ducks and the scoreboard reading a precarious 9/3, the visitors had seized the initiative. It soon became 21/4 as Kallis joined the party by taking Sangakkara’s wicket. Sri Lanka went to lunch at 41/4 with Arnold and Ranatunga in the middle.

  The second session saw Ranatunga – playing his penultimate Test – launch a breathtaking counter-attack. The former captain caught the South African bowlers and fielders off guard with a flurry of piercing shots to the boundary. He reached his fifty in just 36 balls while Arnold played the anchoring role at the other end. 

  Arnold and Ranatunga put their team well on course for victory with a partnership of 109 that took only 23.3 overs. With 47 needed, six wickets in the bank and a rampant Ranatunga at the crease, Sri Lanka were firmly in the box seat. It was Boje who provided a much-needed opening by removing Arnold, LBW for 40.

zzzzranat     In his penultimate Test, Arjuna Ranatunga smashed a rapid 88 to rescue Sri Lanka during their tense chase of 177 (source – espncricinfo.com)

  Three runs later, Klusener scalped Dharmasena and South Africa were back in the hunt. Even then, they still needed to see Ranatunga’s back. The big moment arrived three balls before tea as the agile Rhodes caught Ranatunga at short-leg with a reflex catch off Boje. The score read 161/7 and the pendulum had swung.

  Ranatunga scored 88 in just 103 balls, adorned with 15 fours, and also passed 5000 Test runs in the process. But his dismissal had ensured that the Sri Lankan tail was left with the tricky task of scoring 16 runs as the final session began. Klusener, in the thick of things as always, bowled Chandana with a yorker off the very first ball post tea.

  The crowd at the picturesque ground was fast getting jittery as Zoysa joined his fellow paceman Vaas in the middle. The pair hung around for 29 balls, bringing the target closer by eight runs, before disaster struck in the form of a mindless misunderstanding.

  To add to the drama, Jayasuriya had come in as a runner for an injured Zoysa. With eight needed to win, Vaas, at the non-striker’s end, set off for a run but was sent back by a hesitant Jayasuriya. By the time Vaas made a return dash to his crease, it was too late as the throw from Kallis had found its way to Klusener and on to the stumps.

   The last man Muralitharan was out the very next ball, umpire Daryl Harper making an error of judgement while giving a caught-behind off Boje (3/24). South Africa had prevailed in a fluctuating match by seven runs and remained alive in the series by the skin of their teeth. Klusener and Ranatunga shared the man of the match award.

  South Africa had bounced back from a disadvantageous position in each of the four innings and eventually fought their way to a nerve-jangling victory. This is their second-narrowest win in terms of runs after their five-run triumph against Australia at Sydney in 1993-94. Also, this is Sri Lanka’s narrowest defeat. The hosts had themselves to blame for the twin collapses of 6/22 and 6/39.

  The deciding Test at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club – Ranatunga’s farewell – ended in a draw and so did the series. South Africa’s unbeaten series streak continued until December 2001, when they were whitewashed 3-0 in Australia.

Match Scorecard

Specials – Recalling the best of Alex Cusack

  Plucky Irish all-rounder Alex Cusack decided to call it quits yesterday after an eight-year career that coincided with Ireland’s rise as an international force to reckon with. Known for his stifling medium-pace and useful lower-order batting, the 34-year-old Brisbane-born cricketer was part of quite a few memorable wins for his adopted country.

  Cusack first burst on to the scene in the 2007 season, capping his ODI debut with the man-of-the-match honour against South Africa. In 59 ODIs since then, he scored 745 runs and more importantly, bagged 63 wickets at an impressive average of 23.96. In 37 T20Is, he scored 229 runs and took 35 wickets at 20.40.

  Overall, he turned out 174 times for Ireland. Though more suited to the limited-overs formats, he also proved his worth in the Intercontinental Cup, scoring 852 runs at 40.50 including a century in his maiden first-class appearance.

  In this post, we look back at six of Cusack’s most significant performances across all formats, in chronological order.

3/15 and 36* v South Africa at Belfast, 2007

  Ireland invited South Africa for a one-off ODI just three months after first facing them during their memorable 2007 World Cup campaign. The hosts, after electing to field, kept South Africa to 173/4 in the allotted 31 overs, the match reduced due to a rain delay.

  Cusack, playing his first ODI, was the last of seven bowlers used by Irish captain Trent Johnston, and he underlined his talent with a disciplined spell of 3/15 in four overs. Placed at 136/1 in the 26th over, South Africa were aiming for a flourishing finish when Cusack removed Morne van Wyk (52) in his second over. 

BELFAST, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 24: Alex Cusack (R) and Niall O'Brien of Ireland celebrate the wicket of Herschelle Gibbs of South Africa during the One Day International match between Ireland and South Africa at the Civil Service Cricket Club in Stormont on June 24, 2007 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

         Debutant Alex Cusack celebrates the wicket of South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs with Niall O’Brien at Belfast in 2007 (source – gettyimages/espncricinfo.com)

  He went on to scalp star batsmen Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs as well, respectively in his final two overs. Ireland got off to a sound start as they reached 45/0 in the tenth over but soon crashed to 56/4, which brought Cusack to the middle.

  It went from bad to worse as the runs dried up and the remaining wickets tumbled in a heap. Cusack was the only one to show some spine, ending unbeaten on 36 from 56 balls as his side were bowled out for 131 in the final over. He thus won the man-of-the-match award on debut, the second Irishman to achieve the feat after Eoin Morgan.

130 v Scotland at Belfast, 2007

  Less than two months after his promising ODI debut, Cusack made an impact on his first-class debut as well. Defending champions Ireland were playing Scotland in their first match of the fourth edition of the ICC Intercontinental Cup. 

  In a rain-affected game, Ireland had Scotland on the mat at 135/6 after the visitors elected to bat, before a doughty 93 from John Blain, aided by the lower order, stretched the total to 314. The Scot pacemen then reduced Ireland to 59/4 before Niall O’Brien (84) and Andre Botha added 122. Cusack walked out at 181/5, joining Botha in the middle.

  Botha and Cusack blunted the Scot attack en route to a record partnership of 234. This remains the highest sixth-wicket stand in the Intercontinental Cup and the third-highest for Ireland for any wicket.

  Botha struck 186 off 238 balls while Cusack made 130 from 204 balls, hitting 16 fours and two sixes before being caught behind. Ireland reached 473/7 before the match was drawn. This remains his only century across all formats of cricket. 

5/20 v Afghanistan at Rotterdam, 2010

  Ireland faced the mercurial Afghans in the fourth match of the 2010 ICC World Cricket League Division One. After deciding to bat, they were reduced to 27/3 which included the dismissal of Cusack – who batted one-drop – for just two runs.

  However Andrew Poynter (78) turned around his team’s fortunes and spearheaded the eventual total to a respectable 237/9. Rain during the innings break meant that Afghanistan began their reply the next day. Cusack nipped out Noor Ali Zadran and Mohammed Shahzad early to reduce the score to 34/2.

  The Afghans appeared to be recovering well when placed at 114/4 in the 31st over, but Cusack dented the chase by dismissing Asghar Stanikzai, the game now well in Ireland’s grasp. As the final ten overs began with 76 needed, Samiullah Shenwari became Cusack’s fourth victim.

  Off the first ball of the 48th over, Cusack sealed the deal by taking his fifth wicket in the form of Hamid Hassan. Ireland won by 39 runs and went on to win the tournament, remaining unbeaten in six matches. Cusack’s figures of 8.1-1-20-5 remained his career-best in ODIs and his only five-wicket haul in international cricket.

47 v England at Bangalore, 2010-11

  Much has been written about Ireland’s epic three-wicket win against England at the 2011 World Cup, but Cusack’s role in the victory often goes unnoticed. Batting first, England piled up a massive 327/8 to begin the second half as clear favourites. Cusack returned unimpressive figures of 0/39 off four overs.

  In reply, Ireland lost three for nine in a middle-order wobble to fall to 111/5 in the 25th over, the match as good as dead and buried. Out came Cusack at this point, to join Kevin O’Brien. O’Brien went on to launch one of the most stunning onslaughts ever seen, as he tonked a 50-ball hundred – the fastest in World Cup history.

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     Cusack scored a priceless 47 and shared a 162-run stand for the sixth wicket with Kevin O’Brien against England at the 2011 World Cup (source – cricketireland.ie)

  While O’Brien (113 off 63 balls) was going hammer and tongs, Cusack maintained a calm presence at the other end. Without his determined support, O’Brien’s exploits would have most certainly gone waste. The two shared a game-changing stand of 162 for the sixth wicket before Cusack was unfortunately run out for 47 off 58 balls.

  Besides hitting three fours and a six, he farmed the strike superbly and took due responsiblity when needed. 46 balls after he got out, Ireland had created history and Cusack had earned his place in World Cup folklore with an immensely crucial contribution.

4/11 v West Indies at Kingston, 2013-14

  This was the second match of Ireland’s two-match T20I series in the Caribbean. In the first, they had recorded a six-wicket win – their first T20I success against a ‘top-eight’ nation. The hosts were inserted in on a low and slow Sabina Park pitch.

  Openers Devon Smith and Andre Fletcher began well by putting on 27 in four overs before Cusack had the latter caught behind off his very first ball, his first over being a wicket maiden. He followed it up by removing Smith in his next over and now had figures of 2-1-2-2.

  The quick blows softened the Windies and stymied their run rate. The bowlers bowled tightly as a unit as no batsman even reached 20. Cusack came back in the 18th over for his second spell and duly dismissed Denesh Ramdin and Samuel Badree to finish with a career-best 4/11. The West Indies were limited to 96/9.

   However, the Irish batsmen failed to match up to their bowling counterparts and were completely choked by the home bowlers. The score slid to 29/5 in the 11th over and never recovered from the woeful start. Ireland could manage only 85/8 and had to share the series. Cusack was named the man of the series for his six wickets.

4/32 v Zimbabwe at Hobart, 2014-15

  Four years after the Bangalore coup, Cusack played a pivotal part in another heart-stopping World Cup win for Ireland. Needing to win this match to keep their hopes of reaching the quarterfinals of the 2015 edition alive, Ireland would have probably suffered a disheartening defeat had it not been for Cusack’s excellent bowling under pressure.

  Calculated batting from Ed Joyce (112) and Andy Balbirnie (97) guided Ireland to a big total of 331/7 after being put in. However Ireland’s ordinary bowling form – they had conceded 411 to South Africa in their previous game – meant that the game was by no means over.  

zzzcussy

      Cusack produced a match-winning return of 4/32 against Zimbabwe at Hobart in the 2015 World Cup (source – rooney quinn/gettyimages/zimbio.com)

  Zimbabwe stuttered to 32/2, with Cusack claiming the second wicket, that of Chamu Chibhabha. The score further fell to 74/4 by the 17th over, but Zimbabwean captain Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams forged an attacking partnership. They put on 149 for the fifth wicket before Cusack induced Taylor (121) into a catch to mid-on. His figures were 7-2-17-2 at this stage.

  Williams (96) meanwhile continued Zimbabwe’s charge and the game was seeming to slip away from Ireland. Cusack’s next two overs together went for 14 runs. With 26 required off two overs and two wickets in hand, Kevin O’Brien went for 19 runs. Not surprisingly, Cusack was entrusted to bowl the final over.

  Off the very first delivery, he produced an off-cutter to bowl Regis Chakabva. A single followed, which brought Tawanda Mupariwa on strike for the third ball. Mupariwa, who had crashed 18 off just five balls, went for glory but could not get the slower ball past William Porterfield at long-on.

  Zimbabwe thus fell short by just five runs. Cusack turned out to be the difference, finishing with analysis of 9.3-2-32-4, all his wickets coming at key moments. Even though Ireland eventually missed out a quarterfinal berth, Cusack ended as their best bowler with seven wickets at an average of 24.57 and an economy rate of 4.58.

Notable mentions:

– 4/18 v Sri Lanka at Lord’s in the ICC World T20, 2009

– 4/21 v Scotland on T20I debut at Belfast, 2008

– Being named as the player of the series at the 2010 ICC World T20 Qualifier in the UAE, 2009-10

  Wishing him a happy post-retirement life.