Specials – Memories from the NatWest Tri-Series, Part 2

  Having looked at the first three editions of the NatWest Tri-Series last week, we move on to summarise the latter half of the tournament’s history, comprising of the 2003, 2004 and 2005 editions.

2003

  Zimbabwe and South Africa, co-hosts of the World Cup that had concluded three months earlier, were the tourists. England had forfeited their World Cup match against Zimbabwe on political grounds, a decision which probably cost them a place in the next round. This was destined to be Zimbabwe’s last series in England.

  England were caught napping in the first game at Trent Bridge where a tidy Zimbabwean attack kept them to just 191/8. Zimbabwe overcame a dreadful start of 15/4 to clinch a four-wicket win with two overs to spare, thanks to Grant Flower’s mettlesome 96*. England bounced back with a commanding six-wicket win over South Africa at the Oval.

  Chasing a total of 264/6 (Jacques Kallis scoring 107), openers Marcus Trescothick (114*) and Vikram Solanki (106) galloped to a 200-run stand and the win was sealed in the 46th over. Another Kallis century (125) followed at Canterbury, this time not in vain as Zimbabwe fell 46 short of their target of 273.

  The second round began with a rained-off game between England and Zimbabwe at Headingley, following which South Africa nosed ahead with a seven-wicket defeat of the hosts. An unbroken stand of 145 between Kallis (82*) and Jacques Rudolph (71*) ensured that a modest 224 was chased down with 15 balls left. The Proteas then subdued Zimbabwe by nine wickets at Canterbury, chasing 175.

  Bristol saw the English pace attack master the conditions expertly as Zimbabwe were shot out for 92, Darren Gough the pick with 4/26. Heath Streak (4/21) reduced England to 25/4, but Flintoff’s rapid 47* calmed nerves to ensure a six-wicket win. This result knocked Zimbabwe out of contention.

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     Andrew Flintoff celebrates Shaun Pollock’s dismissal in the 2003 NatWest Series final at Lord’s. He was named player of the tournament (source – tribuneindia.com)

  England’s bowlers continued their good form at Edgbaston, limiting South Africa to 198/9 with James Anderson claiming 4/38. Michael Vaughan’s 83 rescued England from 30/3, guiding them to a four-wicket win in the 39th over. Zimbabwe ended their tour with another disappointing seven-wicket loss to South Africa, after Makhaya Ntini’s 4/45 restricted them to 173/8.

  The final was awfully lopsided. South Africa slipped to 43/4 in the 12th over after being put in, and never recovered. The hosts’ pace unit proved to be too much as no batsman managed to reach 20, the final total being 107 in 32.1 overs. England lost Trescothick early, but Solanki’s 50 was enough for a seven-wicket win with 178 balls to spare. Flintoff was named player of the series.

2004

  New Zealand made their first appearance in the tournament while the West Indies returned after four years. The first two ODIs failed to produce a result due to rain, before the first completed match at Trent Bridge saw the Windies – who were later to be whitewashed in the Tests – win in a canter. England slumped from 102/3 to 147 all out, losing by seven wickets with 106 balls to spare.

  England’s batting went from bad to worse in their next game against New Zealand at Chester-le-Street. James Franklin (5/42) and Jacob Oram ran riot, skittling the hosts for just 101. No batsman reached even 15. The Black Caps achieved an easy seven-wicket win in the 18th over. A struggling England then faced the West Indies at Headingley.

  The pace attack rose to the occasion and helped bundle the West Indies out for 159. Marcus Trescothick’s brisk 55 at the top ensured a comfortable seven-wicket win in just 22 overs. The New Zealand bowlers continued to impress at Cardiff, where the West Indies could manage only 216 after being 180/3 at one stage. Brian Lara made 58 while opening the innings.

  New Zealand’s reply revolved around an unbeaten 75 from Hamish Marshall, which guided them to a five-wicket win with four overs to spare. They followed this up with another convincing display at Bristol, defeating England by six wickets. England rode on Andrew Flintoff’s 106 to post 237/7 after having been reduced to 57/3.

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     Daniel Vettori starred with a haul of 5/30 in the 2004 NatWest Series final, enabling New Zealand to beat the West Indies by 107 runs (source – stuff.co.nz)

  Captain Stephen Fleming, later named player of the series, starred in the chase, scoring a solid 99 and sharing century stands with Nathan Astle for the first wicket and with Marshall for the second. Though unlucky to miss his century, his effort was enough to seal a six-wicket win in the 48th over and also a spot in the final.

  In a must-win game at Lord’s, England were 54/3 when Flintoff joined Andrew Strauss. They added 226 for the fourth wicket – Flintoff scoring 123 in 104 balls, Strauss 100. The total of 285/7 however did not prove enough as Chris Gayle scored 132*, his second-wicket stand with Ramnaresh Sarwan (89) fetching 187. The target was reached with seven wickets and five balls in the bank.

  New Zealand took on the West Indies in the final. Fleming (67) and Astle (57) put on 120 for the first wicket to lay a strong base. Craig McMillan (52) held the middle order despite the last seven wickets falling for 49; the Black Caps bowled out for 266 in the final over. The Windies suffered a collapse from 98/2 to 159 all out, thanks to Daniel Vettori who spun a web to finish with 5/30.

2005

  The focus in this year was well and truly on the Ashes, but the last edition of the NatWest Tri-Series set the tone for the epic Test series that followed. The tournament featured one of the biggest ODI upsets and the final was a tantalising affair. The presence of lightweights Bangladesh, on their first tour England, added novelty to the summer.

  England proved to be too strong for the Tigers in the opening game at the Oval. Steve Harmison’s 4/39 kept Bangladesh to 190, which was overhauled by openers Trescothick (100*) and Strauss (82*) in less than 25 overs. Bangladesh however were undeterred and went on to script a fairytale against World Cup champions Australia in their next match at Cardiff.

  Australia were reduced to 9/2 before Damien Martyn (77) and Michael Clarke revived the innings. The bowlers kept it tight as Australia were limited to 249/5. Bangladesh began slowly and were struggling at 72/3 in the 21st over when captain Habibul Bashar joined young Mohammad Ashraful. Their 130-run stand turned the game around, with Ashraful going on to reach a memorable 100.

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     Mohammad Ashraful celebrates his hundred that helped Bangladesh stun Australia at Cardiff in 2005 (source – foxsports.com.au/news limited)

  Australia were stunned by five wickets with four balls to spare in what was an apt case of Goliath slayed by David. They suffered another defeat the next day at Bristol, where Harmison (5/33) restricted them to 252/9 (Michael Hussey 84). Kevin Pietersen then smashed 91* off 65 balls to pave the way for England’s three-wicket win in the 48th over.

  The next round began with England posting a record 391/4 against Bangladesh at Trent Bridge. Strauss (152) and Paul Collingwood (112*) shared in a 210-run stand for the fourth wicket. Ashraful (94 in 52 balls) tried his best in reply, but England romped to a 168-run win, thanks to Collingwood (6/31) and Chris Tremlett (4/32).

  Under-pressure Australia now faced England at Chester-le-Street. Their total of 266/5 (Andrew Symonds 73) proved to be 57 runs too strong for the hosts, who never recovered from 6/3. Ricky Ponting’s men exacted revenge against Bangladesh too, with a ten-wicket win at Old Trafford thanks to Symonds’ 5/18 that ensured the target was limited to 140.

  England were back in business with a five-wicket win over Bangladesh at Headingley. A total of 208/7 (Flintoff 4/29) was surpassed with ease, with Strauss scoring 98. The third match between England and Australia ended in a no result due to rain before Australia overcame the jitters of 83/3 at Canterbury to go past Bangladesh’s 250/8 and win by six wickets, Clarke scoring 80*.

  The final had plenty of ebbs and flows. Australia raced to 50/0 in seven overs after being put in, before imploding to 93/5. Hussey’s 62* was the only score past 30 as his side were bowled out for 196 in the 49th over, Flintoff and Harmison taking three wickets each. Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee scythed through England’s batting and at 33/5 in the tenth over, it seemed as if the end would be quick.

  Collingwood (53) and Geraint Jones (71) had other ideas, as they brought England back with a 116-run stand for the sixth wicket. The battle entered the last over with England 187/8. With three needed off two balls, McGrath removed Darren Gough before two leg byes were squeezed off the final ball to leave the match tied and the trophy shared. Symonds was named the player of the tournament.

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Record Book – The first day/night international on English soil

  The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) warmed up to the concept of floodlit cricket only in 1997, when the first day-night match was played under temporary lights at Edgbaston between Warwickshire and Somerset in the 40-overs Sunday League.

  The idea caught on and by 2000, most counties had installed temporary floodlights at their grounds and were regularly hosting day-night matches. However, the 1999 World Cup did not feature any match under lights and England had to wait until the next year to witness its first official day-night ODI.

  It was the first match of the inaugural edition of the triangular NatWest Series, played between the West Indies and Zimbabwe – the two touring teams that summer – at the County Ground in Bristol on Thursday, July 6. Around 7,000 spectators had gathered to watch this path-breaking match.

  This was also Bristol’s first ODI outside of the World Cup, having hosted matches in the 1983 and 1999 editions. Jimmy Adams elected to bat on a pitch which was on the slower side. Openers Adrian Griffith and Chris Gayle gave the West Indies a sedate start, putting on 33 at three an over before the medium pace of 19-year-old Mluleki Nkala accounted for the former.

  Gayle was then joined by his Jamaican teammate Wavell Hinds, and the left-handed duo strung together 68 runs at four an over to lay a reasonable foundation. Gayle was restrained throughout his innings – he scored 41 from 86 balls – before being caught short of his crease at the bowler’s end. The new man in was ‘Prince of Trinidad’ Brian Lara.

zzzbris             Bristol’s County Ground, home of Gloucestershire, was the first ground in England to stage an ODI under floodlights (source – bristol247.com)

  Lara was in his element as he unleashed his class to delight the crowd. The West Indian innings needed a kickstart and he provided just that. Hinds fell for 51 with the score at 135 in the 36th over, following which the hard-hitting Ricardo Powell joined Lara. An entertaining partnership ensued as the last third of the innings began.

  The pair added 56 from 43 balls for the fourth wicket, with Powell creaming 36 in 23 balls (five fours and a six) before holing out to Grant Flower off Gary Brent. Lara reached his fifty in the 47th over and then rushed to 60 in the next, in which he became Flower’s second victim, caught in the covers by Neil Johnson.

  Lara faced 63 balls for his knock which was laced with six fours and a six. The lower order could not really provide a final flourish as the West indies were eventually kept to 232/7. The target was certainly attainable for a Zimbabwean side that had thoroughly impressed in the World Cup a year before, missing out on a semifinal berth by a whisker.

  The much-anticipated lights were now switched on as openers Johnson and Craig Wishart strode out. The West Indian attack was bereft of veterans Curtly Ambrose – who was rested with an eye on the Test series against England – and Courtney Walsh, who was out injured. Zimbabwe had a big chance to notch their maiden ODI win over the Windies, this being their ninth attempt.

  Zimbabwe began confidently and despite losing Wishart and Murray Goodwin to the erratic Franklyn Rose, were placed at 57/2 after ten overs. Johnson was fluent at one end and when Alistair Campbell was caught behind off Mervyn Dillon, the score read 90/3 in the 18th over. The scoring rate was healthy; wickets were the key here.

  Zimbabwe’s reliable wicketkeeper-captain Andy Flower was just the man Johnson needed to forge a partnership and steady the innings. Together they adopted a sensible approach and consolidated their team’s position with a crucial stand worth 70 runs at about four an over, characterised by good running between the wickets.

  The contest was still on an even keel when Flower perished, the score now 160/4 in the 36th over and the required rate five an over. Grant Flower replaced his elder brother and the Windies might have thought that another quick wicket could put them in the ascendancy. Johnson, who had by now reached a solid fifty, and Flower had other ideas though.

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       Neil Johnson struck an unbeaten 95* to star in Zimbabwe’s first ODI win against the West Indies, at Bristol in 2000 (source – bbc.co.uk)

  With the West Indian fielding ordinary, Zimbabwe were blessed with another substantial partnership as the evening wore on. Johnson was now well settled while the younger Flower was in an attacking mood. Nixon McLean came in for special treatment as the pair milked him for easy runs. They upped the ante with every passing over, fast bringing Zimbabwe closer to victory.

  The fifth wicket remained elusive for the Windies. Adams decided to roll his arm when the scores were level and all was lost. He bowled a wide, which sealed a six-wicket win for Zimbabwe with five overs to spare. Johnson was the fulcrum of the successful chase, scoring 95* from 128 balls with nine fours while Flower chipped in with a quick 26*. Their unbroken stand of 73 had come off just 60 balls.

  Johnson was rightfully named man of the match. After eight losses on the trot to the West Indies dating back to 1983, Zimbabwe went on to win three against them in as many ODIs – they repeated the feat of Bristol at Canterbury and Chester-le-Street as well. These wins, plus one against England, were enough to put them in the final at Lord’s where they were beaten by the hosts.

  Besides Bristol, Old Trafford and Edgbaston also held day-night fixtures in the tournament, England winning against Zimbabwe in both cases. The first ODI in England and Wales to feature permanent floodlights was played between England and Pakistan at Cardiff in 2006. Southampton soon followed suit later in the same series.

  The past decade has seen a sea change in England’s attitude toward floodlit cricket. The rise of Twenty20 has led all the premier grounds to install permanent lights. Bristol unveiled permanent floodlights for the first time only in April 2016. Day-night internationals are today an integral part of the English summer, and we should not be surprised to see a historic day-night Test in 2017.

Match Scorecard

Specials – Best of the ODIs : England v Sri Lanka

  Sri Lanka are about to begin their limited-overs leg in England in the coming week, with Trent Bridge hosting the first ODI tomorrow. Having been humbled in the Test series, the Lions will be looking to perform better in a format which suits them well. Indeed, Sri Lanka have won two of their last three ODI series in England.

  The two teams have played each other in 64 ODIs since their first meeting in 1981-82 and have developed a closely-fought rivalry over the years. Sri Lanka hold a slight edge with 34 wins as against England’s 30. In this post, we look back at five of the most exciting ODI matches between the two countries, in chronological order.

Colombo, 1981-82

  This was the first ever ODI to be played between England and Sri Lanka and also the first official international to be played on Sri Lankan soil. The home captain Bandula Warnapura elected to field after winning the toss in this historic match of 45 overs per side at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

  Graham Gooch and Geoff Cook added a cautious 55 for the first wicket before off-spinner Lalith Kaluperuma accounted for the latter. Gooch cashed in on some shoddy fielding  and steered England to a commanding position. He was third out for 64 with the score at 152, after having shared in a stand of 69 with Ian Botham.

  Botham carted 60 in just 51 balls, but his dismissal to Sri Lanka’s premier pace bowler Ashantha de Mel triggered a calamitous collapse. England’s innings nosedived from 191/3 to 211 all out with de Mel (4/34) castling last man Derek Underwood off the fourth ball of the final over. Sri Lanka would have really fancied their chances at this point.

  Opener Sidath Wettimuny decided to dig in, but wickets were steadily falling at the other end. When he was dismissed by debutant Paul Allott, Sri Lanka had lost three wickets for eight and were in trouble at 92/5. The sixth-wicket pair Ranjan Madugalle and Anura Ranasinghe brought their side back into the contest with a counter-attacking stand of 68 at nearly six an over.

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       Ian Botham produced an all-round performance to help England to a narrow win in their inaugural ODI against Sri Lanka in 1981-82 (source – bbc.co.uk/) 

  Though Bob Willis broke through Madugalle’s defences, Ranasinghe went on to a breezy 51 from just 41 balls before man of the match Botham halted his charge to make it 187/8. The tail stretched the contest into the final over, but the experience of the English bowlers kept them at bay, restricting the total to 206/8.

Colombo, 1981-82

  Just a day after the first ODI, Sri Lanka levelled the two-match series in what was another nail-biting encounter. The hosts were inserted in by Keith Fletcher and almost immediately found themselves on the backfoot courtesy Botham. ‘Beefy’ struck twice to reduce the score to 5/2. Roy Dias’ hit-wicket dismissal made it 43/3.

  Wettimuny played the sheet anchor again and found support from 18-year-old debutant Arjuna Ranatunga. The duo put on 87 for the fourth wicket before Ranatunga was run out for a mature 42. England kept the scoring rate in check with regular wickets but were unable to get past Wettimuny, who carried his bat with 86* in a total of 215/7 from the allotted 45 overs.

  Gooch (74) and Cook halved the target by themselves with an opening stand of 109, but slow left-armer Ajit de Silva had both the openers stumped by wicketkeeper Mahes Goonatilleke. The big wickets of David Gower and Botham too fell soon and England were now 147/4. Disciplined bowling from the Sri Lankans was doing the trick.

  Despite having five wickets in hand, the asking rate for the last five overs was almost nine. Fletcher and Mike Gatting were up to the task as it came down to 14 runs from the last two overs. However, the next four batsmen to fall were all run out before De Mel dismissed Willis to consign England to a three-run defeat with a ball to spare, much to the delight of the capacity crowd.

Adelaide, 1998-99

  Sri Lanka secured a thrilling victory in this controversial, high-scoring clash of the Carlton and United Tri Series in Australia. Ranatunga, who became the most experienced ODI captain in this match – his 179th in charge – put England in to bat after winning the toss.

  England’s innings revolved around number three Graeme Hick’s sublime, unbeaten 126 from 118 balls which included five fours and four sixes. He was joined by Neil Fairbrother (78*) at 148/3 in the 29th over and the two put the Sri Lankan attack to the sword with an unbroken stand of 154 in 128 balls. This enabled England to post a daunting 302/3.

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 Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga argues with umpire Ross Emerson after the latter called Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing at Adelaide in 1998-99 (source – gettyimages)

  The innings was marred by bitterness when square-leg umpire Ross Emerson called Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing in his second over. An incensed Ranatunga led his team off the field in protest and it was only after 14 minutes that the match resumed. This incident led to acrimony between the two sides, which continued well into Sri Lanka’s innings.

  Romesh Kaluwitharana and Marvan Atapattu fell within the first four overs the chase as Sri Lanka were reduced to 8/2. Sanath Jayasuriya cracked a typical 51 off just 36 balls before his dismissal made the score 68/3, at which point 21-year-old Mahela Jayawardene came out to the middle.

  Jayawardene shared in crucial partnerships of 66 with Hashan Tillakaratne and 89 with Ranatunga for the fourth and fifth wickets respectively. He went to reach his maiden ODI hundred and when he was seventh out, leg before to Vince Wells for 120 from 111 balls including nine fours, Sri Lanka still needed 35 from 28 balls.

  Calculated hitting from Upul Chandana and Roshan Mahanama brought the target closer as the match headed towards a tantalising finish; the latter’s being the ninth wicket to fall at 298 with seven balls left. The last pair maintained their composure and incidentally, it was ‘Murali’ who hit the winning run off the fourth ball of the final over.

North Sound, 2006-07

  This was one of the rare close matches of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, the venue being the new Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. Sri Lanka rode on a brace of half-centuries from Upul Tharanga and captain Jayawardene after Michael Vaughan sent them in to bat.

  Tharanga ground out a patient 62 while Jayawardene struck a breezy 56, the two adding 91 for the third wicket after coming together at 69/2. However, the middle and lower order could not capitalise on this platform. Sri Lanka lost wickets regularly once these two batsmen were dismissed, eventually getting bowled out for 235 in 50 overs.

  Sajid Mahmood (4/50) and Andrew Flintoff (3/35) were the pick of the English bowlers. England had a poor start as they lost openers Ed Joyce and Vaughan with just 11 runs on the board. Ian Bell (47) and Kevin Pietersen (58) steadied the ship with a sensible stand of 90 for the third wicket. But the pendulum swung again when England lost 4 for 32, leaving them in trouble at 133/6.

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      Dilhara Fernando is congratulated after he bowled Ravi Bopara in the final over of the 2007 World Cup match between England and Sri Lanka (source – smh.com.au/AP)

  England needed another substantial partnership, which was provided by Ravi Bopara and Paul Nixon. They brought their team back into the contest by putting on 87 in 92 balls for the seventh wicket. Nixon fell in the 49th over, which meant England still had three wickets in hand when they needed 12 from the final over.

  Dilhara Fernando (3/41) was entrusted with the last over. Mahmood took a single to give strike to the set Bopara, who duly hit a boundary to bring the equation to 7 off 4. Bopara (52) reached his fifty off the next ball, and it all boiled down to him facing the last ball with three to win. It was not to be, as Fernando clipped the top of his off-stump to ensure Sri Lanka sneaked a two-run win.

Lord’s, 2014

  England were leading the five-match series 2-1 coming into this fourth ODI, which meant Sri Lanka could not afford to lose. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara made hay after Alastair Cook elected to field, adding 172 for the second wicket. Dilshan was dismissed for 71, but Sangakkara went on to reach three figures.

  The Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman scored his 19th ODI hundred – a fine 112 from 104 balls with 14 fours – before getting out in the 43rd over. This enabled Sri Lanka to post a round 300/9 in their 50 overs, the last seven wickets falling for 79. Harry Gurney bowled well to collect 4/55.

  England started off the wrong foot, losing Cook to Lasith Malinga in the second over. Malinga (3/52) soon accounted for Bell as well, leaving the score to be 10/2. The Yorkshire pair of Gary Ballance and Joe Root shared 84 for the third wicket but both fell within four overs of each other to dent the chase again. At 111/5 in the 29th over, things were looking grim for the hosts.

  Enter Jos Buttler. The English wicketkeeper went on a boundary-hitting spree and altered the course of the match, dominating a stand of 133 off 98 balls for the sixth wicket with Bopara (51). He stormed his way into the record books, taking only 61 balls to reach his hundred – the quickest by an Englishman until he himself broke it with a 46-ball effort against Pakistan in 2015-16.

  Buttler’s charge ensured that the match went into the last over – to be bowled by Malinga – with 12 runs needed. Chris Jordan was out off the second ball and then with nine to win off three, Buttler was run out by the bowler for a valiant 121 in 74 balls with 11 fours and four sixes, thus dashing English hopes. England finished at 293/8 and went on to lose the series after another defeat in the decider.

Watch Sri Lanka prevail over England at the Adelaide Oval.

Who Would Have Thought It – The day the Barramundis ran amok

  As many as 16 teams took part in the 1986 ICC Trophy in England, vying for the single spot available for non-Test nations in the 1987 World Cup. It was Zimbabwe who ultimately made it, defeating the Netherlands in the final to qualify for their second successive World Cup.

  The tournament featured plenty of lopsided matches as the superior teams proved to be too strong for the weaker ones. Eventual semifinalists Bermuda thumped Fiji by 235 runs and then Hong Kong by 227, Zimbabwe brushed Argentina aside by 207 runs while the Netherlands walloped Israel by 267 runs.

  Papua New Guinea, who had finished a creditable fourth in the previous edition in 1982, were routed by the Dutch by 219 runs in their opening game at Wolverhampton. However, none of these results came close to the thrashing that the Barramundis themselves inflicted upon Gibraltar on 18th June at the Cannock and Rugeley Cricket Club ground.

  Both the teams were winless coming into this 60-overs-a-side match. Papua New Guinea were captained by Api Leka while Gibraltar were led by William Scott. Charles Amini Sr, father of modern-day regulars Chris and Charles Jr, set the tone with a vigorous, career-best 97 while opening the innings. The highest scorer of the innings was Babani Harry, who made 127 from number three.

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  Scott, aged 45, gave his side some hope with the wickets of Amini, William Maha and Raki Ila, but Papua New Guinea were in no mood to relent. Leka kept up the good work with a knock of 69 from number six while Renagi Ila blasted an unbeaten 60 from number seven – both being their respective career-best scores.

  Despite the best efforts of slow left-arm orthodox bowler Gary De’Ath, who took 5/88 in his allotted 12 overs, Papua New Guinea racked up a massive total of 455/9 – which is the highest total of all time in the ICC Trophy. The previous record was 408/7 by Bermuda against Hong Kong just five days earlier.

  As if facing a required run rate of 7.60 an over was not enough, the pace duo of Guma Ravu and Tuku Raka made a mess of the Gibraltar top order. Ravu in particular bowled incisively, collecting 4/16 in 11 overs and the hapless Gibraltar batsmen had no answer to his skills. Maha kept up the pressure as he ripped through the middle and lower order with 5/12 in six overs.

  49-year-old Salvador Perez played a lone hand, top-scoring with 30 from number six, before he too succumbed to Maha. Only three batsmen reached double figures as Gibraltar were shot out for a paltry 86 in 34 overs. The victory margin of 369 runs created a new ICC Trophy record, bettering Bermuda’s 284-run win over Malaysia in 1982. 

  However, this match did not enjoy List A status. Currently, the highest margin of victory in a List A match is 346, achieved by Somerset against Devon at Torquay in 1990. Interestingly, Gibraltar were beaten heavily by Papua New Guinea in the 1982 ICC trophy as well – a nine-wicket defeat after being bowled out for just 55.

  Coming back to the 1986 edition, Papua New Guinea produced another dominating performance in their next match, defeating Israel by 277 runs after posting 377/6 at Worcester. Harry struck his second successive century, this time a career-best of 162.

  Despite further wins over Fiji and Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea failed to progress from a tough Group B and finished fifth out of nine teams with four wins and as many defeats. It was only in 2014 that the Barramundis secured ODI status for the first time, and today they are ranked 16th in the world. 

Match Scorecard

Viewpoint – Sri Lanka’s journey an inspiration for Ireland

  As the two-match ODI series between Ireland and Sri Lanka gets underway today, it would be interesting to note the similarities between the cricketing stories of the two nations. Both the Emerald Isles took off rapidly after modest beginnings on the cricket scene.

  Sri Lanka’s ascent to the top tier of international cricket is the perfect motivation for Ireland to break the glass ceiling that pervades the game. Sri Lanka announced themselves in their second World Cup in 1979, when they upset India by 47 runs in their last group match. Test status was duly achieved in 1981-82.

  Soon after, India were at the receiving end of Sri Lanka’s first Test victory as well. Test cricket’s newest entrant claimed the 1985-86 series against India with a 149-run win in the second Test at Colombo. In spite of inconsistency in the ensuing years, Sri Lanka had shown enough prowess to justify their elevation to the longer format.

  In the build-up to the 1996 World Cup, the Sri Lankans had developed into one of the most feared ODI outfits. So much so that they were one of the contenders to lift the trophy. They did not disappoint, as they went unbeaten throughout the tournament, eventually dispatching Australia in the final.

  Led by the astute Arjuna Ranatunga, the island nation enjoyed the finest moment of its cricket history. Sri Lanka were World Cup champions within 15 years of becoming a Test nation. Their quick rise has arguably been international cricket’s biggest success story in the past three decades.

  A combination of sheer talent and passion for the game has translated into a strong cricket culture in Sri Lanka which brings its own flavour to the international game. There is no reason why Ireland cannot grow to a similar level in a short period of time. After all, it was only in 1993 that they were admitted as an Associate member of the ICC.

Sri Lanka's Dinesh Chandimal (L) bats during a One Day International cricket match between Ireland and Sri Lanka at Clontarf Cricket Club in Dublin, Ireland, on May 6, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ARTUR WIDAK

   Sri Lanka’s rapid rise from an Associate nation to World Cup champions can serve as an inspiration for Ireland to reach similar heights (source – AFP/srilankacricket.lk) 

  Over the next decade and a half, they leapfrogged numerous other teams and made serious strides towards cricket’s elite bastion. Their spirited campaign in the 2007 World Cup won them a legion of admirers worldwide. Characterised by their tenacity, Ireland have gone on to beat as many as five full member teams and today stand at the threshold of the holy grail of Test match cricket.

  Ireland have the capability of not just emulating, but even bettering Sri Lanka’s achievements. The spirit of the players is being backed by an extremely efficient administrative body – something which Sri Lanka have lacked for quite some time now – and an increasing commitment to make cricket a mainstream sport in the public consciousness.

  Awarding Test status to Sri Lanka paid rich dividends both for the national team as well as for international cricket as a whole. With South Africa in isolation, the entry of a new team brought a breath of fresh air to the Test circuit which could have become monotonous with just the six teams playing amongst each other.

  The privilege of full membership provided Sri Lanka with the security of being a part of the international calendar. Much of Sri Lanka’s success from the mid-nineties could be attributed to the constant experience they derived by playing the stronger teams after attaining Test status. By contrast, Ireland’s elevation to the highest level has been long delayed.

  In spite of performing beyond expectations in limited chances, the Irishmen have been treated as outliers. There has hardly been any scope for them to hone their skills by playing tougher opposition outside of ICC events. Although things are looking brighter on this front recently, Ireland need much more encouragement from the cricketing fraternity.

  Sri Lanka’s foray into international cricket brought a whole new fanbase to the game and introduced a number of fresh talents who went on to delight cricket lovers across the globe. From the pluck of Ranatunga to the belligerence of Sanath Jayasuriya, from the wizardry of Muttiah Muralitharan to the finesse of Kumar Sangakkara – the variety they brought greatly enriched the game.

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    Ireland have exceeded expectations thus far, defying the parochial attitude of the ICC and also the threat from major sports in the country (source – espncricinfo.com/gettyimages)

 Ireland have the potential to bestow upon Test cricket their own vibrant brand. The fact that the Irish players have come thus far by defying the parochial attitude of the ICC as well as competition from the major sports in the country speaks volumes of their determination.

  They could well become the next Sri Lanka in terms of talent or the next New Zealand in terms of optimum utilisation of limited resources. A two-division Test structure is being mulled by the ICC and it remains to be seen how beneficial it will be for the Associate nations.

  Ireland are head and shoulders above the rest in the ongoing Intercontinental Cup, with a full 60 points from three matches. Test cricket is in dire need of novelty and a team like Ireland ticks all the boxes. However, they may have to wait for at least two more years.

  With most of Ireland’s golden generation in the last lap of their careers, the next few years will be crucial for the development of the national team. The Inter-Provincial Championships have been a boon for nurturing the next batch of Irish hopefuls. The likes of Andrew Balbirnie, Stuart Poynter, Craig Young and Barry McCarthy are set to take the Irish challenge into the next decade.

  The curtailment of the number of teams for the 2019 World Cup means that Ireland have to be at their best if they are to qualify for the tournament. Zimbabwe may be regressing of late, but Afghanistan have grown to become a potent limited-overs force. With the competition at the foot of the table intense, Ireland need to be at the top of their game.

  It would not be far-fetched to say that as long as Ireland keep on punching above their weight, they stand a realistic chance of winning a World Cup in the next ten to twelve years. They need to look no further than Sri Lanka’s successful cricketing journey for inspiration.

Specials – Memories from the NatWest Tri-Series, Part 1

  It has been ten years since the English cricket summer did away with the tri-series format for ODIs and instead reverted to separate bilateral series. The primary reason for the discontinuation of the NatWest triangular series from 2006 onwards was that crowds were increasingly turning out to be poor for matches not involving England.

  It was in 1972 that England hosted its first ODI series, a three-match series against Australia. Since then, bilateral series consisting of two or three matches were played against the touring sides, sponsored by Prudential Insurance from 1972 to 1983 and by Texaco from 1984 to 1998. Besides, the first three World Cups were also played in England. All these matches featured white clothing.

  The first international tournament on English soil to feature coloured clothing was a short tri-nation series involving England, South Africa and Sri Lanka in 1998. There was a single round of matches, besides a final in which World Cup holders Sri Lanka defeated the hosts. The following year, England hosted the World Cup for the fourth time.

  The turn of the millenium saw the advent of the NatWest Series, a fresh tri-series concept featuring ten matches played in between the two Test series of the summer. Each team played the others thrice, with the top two making it to the final at Lord’s. The six years of the NatWest Series churned out a fair share of compelling ODI cricket. In this post, we look back at the first three editions.

2000

  The West Indies and Zimbabwe were the participants in the first edition of the NatWest Tri-Series. The tourists faced each other in the opening match at the County Ground in Bristol. This low-key clash was significant for being the first official day/night international in England.

  Brian Lara cracked an entertaining 60 but the West Indian total of 232/7 was inadequate as Neil Johnson’s unbeaten 95 saw Zimbabwe home by six wickets. Zimbabwe went on to make it two out of two as another disciplined bowling effort ensured a five-wicket win against England at the Oval.

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      England’s Craig White celebrates after getting the prized wicket of Zimbabwean captain Andy Flower in the 2000 NatWest Series final (source – cricinfo.com/gettyimages)

  Marcus Trescothick scored 79 on debut but his dismissal triggered a collapse of 8 for 57. The modest total of 207 was chased down in the 49th over thanks to Alistair Campbell’s 80. England’s game with the West Indies at Lord’s was rained off with the hosts struggling at 158/8.

  Zimbabwe extended their winning spree at Canterbury, where they subdued the Windies again. Facing a target of 257, the West Indies crashed to 57/6 and eventually limped to 186/8. Guy Whittall starred for the victors with a knock of 83. The law of averages caught up with Zimbabwe at Old Trafford, where they were bundled out for 114 en route to an eight-wicket defeat to England.

  England continued in the same vein against the West Indies at Chester-le-Street, where openers Trescothick (87*) and captain Alec Stewart (74*) gunned down the target of 170. At the same venue, the West Indies faced a must-win situation against Zimbabwe. Sherwin Campbell (105) and Lara (87) powered them to 287/5.

  However, a stunning unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 186 between Murray Goodwin (112*) and Grant Flower (96*) knocked Jimmy Adams’ men out. Stewart’s 101 guided England to a 52-run win over Zimbabwe at Edgbaston. In the last league match, the West Indies scored a thrilling three-run win after posting 195/9, Stewart’s century (100*) going in vain this time.

  The final was largely one-sided – Stewart missed out on a third successive hundred by three runs, but it was enough to help England win by six wickets after the bowlers, led by Darren Gough (3/20) had restricted the inserted Zimbabweans to 169/7. The England captain was deservedly named player of the series for his tally of 408 runs, besides 12 catches behind the wicket.

2001

  England faced two superior ODI outfits in Australia and Pakistan in what was a tough summer. Pakistan condemned the hosts to a 108-run thrashing in the first game at Edgbaston, after Saeed Anwar (77) and Inzamam-ul-Haq (79) led their side to 273/6. World Cup champions Australia then chased down Pakistan’s challenging 257 to win by seven wickets.

  Australia’s batting firepower was evident in the next game at Bristol as well, where England’s 268/4 (Nick Knight scoring 84) was overhauled with five wickets in hand thanks to Ricky Ponting’s 102. Lord’s witnessed a thriller as England fell just two runs short of Pakistan’s 242/8, despite Trescothick’s career-best 137.

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     Jason Gillespie is jubliant after bowling Wasim Akram in the final of the 2001 NatWest Series between Australia and Pakistan (source – espncricinfo.com/gettyimages)

  The hosts were then shot out for 86, their lowest ODI total, in pursuit of 209 against Australia at Old Trafford. With England needing to win to stay alive, an ugly crowd invasion overshadowed a fine performance by Waqar Younis at Headingley. Waqar (7/36) reduced the hosts to 58/7 before the total recovered to 156.

  When Pakistan were 153/4, the crowd stormed onto the field, leading to the injury of a steward and the conceding of the match by captain Stewart. This incident rightfully led to the prohibition of spectators from coming on to the field. Another Waqar special of 6/59 enabled Pakistan to beat Australia by 36 runs at Trent Bridge. 

  Another tame defeat to Australia, this time by eight wickets at the Oval, meant that England failed to win a single game in the tournament. Two years after the lop-sided World Cup final, Australia and Pakistan met at Lord’s again and Steve Waugh’s men came up trumps with a similarly thumping win, by nine wickets and with 141 balls to spare. Waqar was named player of the series.

  Pakistan lost wickets at regular intervals after electing to bat first, and at 60/4 in the 20th over, a deja vu of 1999 was already on the cards. Penetrative bowling from Brett Lee and Ian Harvey was aided by Shane Warne’s guile as Pakistan were dismissed for 152. Adam Gilchrist completed the formalities with an unbeaten 76.  

2002

  The presence of two subcontinental teams ensured that most grounds were packed to full houses. The evergreen Stewart, still going strong, scored 83 in the first ODI at Trent Bridge before Andrew Flintoff’s timely strikes ensured Sri Lanka fell short of England’s 293/6 by 44 runs.

  India were a tougher nut for the hosts in the second game at Lord’s, where they won by six wickets facing a target of 272. Rahul Dravid (73*) and Yuvraj Singh (64*) added an unbroken 131 after Virender Sehwag’s quick 71 had laid the platform. India went on top after a four-wicket win in a tricky chase of 203 at the Oval against Sri Lanka, whose batsmen fell to Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar.

  Sanath Jayasuriya’s 112 went in vain in a 32-over affair at Headingley, as the hosts rode on Trescothick’s equally attacking 82 to chase down 241 for the loss of seven wickets. Sachin Tendulkar’s 105* against England at Chester-le-Street helped India pile up 285/4, but rain had the final say.

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     The Indian players rush to congratulate Mohammed Kaif after he guided India to victory in the 2002 NatWest Series final (source – skysports.com)

  Sri Lanka, after being bowled out for 187 at Edgbaston, had India in trouble at 59/4 and it took a mature 64 from Dravid to help his side score a scratchy win by four wickets. The Lankans finally opened their account after four defeats with a 23-run win at Old Trafford over England, who failed to chase 229. Interestingly, Michael Vaughan scalped 4/22 with his part-time off breaks.

  In another rain-shortened match of 32 overs, England won by 64 runs with Ronnie Irani’s 5/26 bowling India out for 165. Tendulkar stroked a vintage 113 out of a total of 304/5 in the last league game at Bristol as Sri Lanka, who were already out of the race, lost by 63 runs. Harbhajan Singh starred with the ball, taking 4/46.

The final was one of the most nail-biting ODIs ever played. After England opted to bat, player of the series Trescothick (109) and captain Nasser Hussain (115) shared in a second-wicket stand of 185. This was Hussain’s only ODI ton. Openers Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly (60) replied to England’s 325/5 by adding 106 in 15 overs, but a collapse soon saw India slide to 146/5.

  Yuvraj and Mohammed Kaif turned the tide by adding 121 for the sixth wicket. When Yuvraj was out for 69, India still needed 58 from 50 balls. Kaif (87*) kept going and was given valuable company by Harbhajan. Two wickets fell at 314, but Zaheer held his nerve to score the winning runs off the third ball of the final over, inspiring captain Ganguly to take his shirt off in celebration on the Lord’s balcony. 

In Focus – Ireland’s ODI journey completes ten years

  13th June marks a decade since Ireland played its first full One-Day International match. Led by Trent Johnston, the boys in green took on England at the scenic Civil Service Cricket Club in Belfast in 2006 and in spite of defeat, displayed spirit and enthusiasm that would typify their performances in the years to come.

  A sell-out crowd of close to 7,000 watched England win by 38 runs – the margin of victory being narrower than most people at the ground would have expected – as Ireland gave a creditable account of themselves. The best Irish batsman was however plying his trade for the opposite camp; Ed Joyce was one of three debutants fielded by England.

  Marcus Trescothick’s commanding 113 paved the way for England’s substantial total of 301/7. He shared in a stand of 143 for the fourth wicket with Ian Bell (80) after England were 92/3. Dave Langford-Smith, who would later have his moments at the 2007 World Cup, and John Mooney picked up three wickets apiece but were on the expensive side. Dominick Joyce, Ed’s younger brother, was out without scoring in the first over of the chase itself.

  Jeremy Bray, Andre Botha (who top-scored with 52) and Kyle McCallan batted grittily and at 118/2 in the 26th over, Ireland were making a good fist of it. However, Steve Harmison and Paul Collingwood put paid to any hopes of an upset as they engineered a collapse of 4 for 17 in three overs. Kevin O’Brien and Andrew White put on 74 for the seventh wicket before both fell to Bell, of all bowlers. Mooney hit around a bit from number ten as Ireland ended at a thoroughly respectable 263/9.

  Ireland had secured ODI status and World Cup qualification for the first time in 2005 when they finished second behind Scotland in the ICC Trophy at home. This was just a further confirmation of their recent exploits in the 50-over game, following famous wins over the touring Zimbabweans in 2003 and the West Indians in 2004. Lamentably, official international status was not accorded to either of these matches.

  Prior to these successes, Ireland’s most significant achievement was beating the West Indians at Sion Mills in 1969, where the tourists were shot out for a scarcely believable 25. But one would have to go even further back in time for Ireland’s first ever victory over a Test nation – this was against the South Africans at Dublin’s College Park back in 1904.

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      England’s Marcus Trescothick scored 113 as Ireland went down by 38 runs in their first ODI match at Belfast in 2006 (source – skysports.com)

  Ireland have seldom looked back after having attained ODI status. It did not take them long to record their first ODI win, which came in their second match against hosts Scotland in the European Championship Division One, a tournament which they went on to win. The ICC World Cricket League in Kenya at the start of 2007 was forgettable as Ireland managed only a solitary win in five matches.

  Few would have predicted that the watershed moment of Irish cricket was to arrive in the coming month. Clubbed with Pakistan, West Indies and Zimbabwe in Group D of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, Ireland stunned all and sundry by storming into the Super Eight round after a tie with Zimbabwe and a defeat of Pakistan at Kingston’s Sabina Park on St. Patrick’s Day.

  The discipline and accuracy of the Irish bowlers, helped by the green-tinged wicket, was too much for the Pakistani batsmen to handle as they crumbled for a measly 132. Boyd Rankin and Botha in particular were excellent, with the latter’s remarkably stingy analysis of 8-4-5-2 being the stuff of legend. Yet, the inexperience of the batsmen could have nearly wasted a golden opportunity had it not been for Niall O’Brien.

  The older of the O’Brien brothers scored 72 and single-handedly anchored the chase. No other batsman crossed 16. It was captain Johnston who fittingly hit the winning six, sealing Ireland’s place in World Cup history. A second win against Bangladesh in the next round ensured that Ireland found a place on the ICC ODI table. A bunch of amateurs who were written off as cannon fodder for the stronger teams were the toast of the tournament.

  Ireland’s World Cup success garnered the attention of the cricketing world and as many as three top teams – India, South Africa and West Indies – travelled to the Emerald Isle to play ODIs in 2007. Early in 2008, Ireland played their first overseas bilateral series, losing all three ODIs in Bangladesh. However in the ensuing years, fixtures against full members frustratingly reduced to a trickle.

  2009 saw Ireland qualify for the World Cup again, this time by virtue of winning the qualifying tournament in South Africa. In the lead-up to the 2011 World Cup, Ireland steadily became the world’s leading Associate nation by winning the WCL undefeated. Wins over Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in the 2010/11 season proved that they were in for the long run. There was a massive opportunity squandered though when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against mighty Australia in Dublin.

  Ireland entered the 2011 World Cup with a point to prove. The ICC had callously decided to shut the door on the Associates for the 2015 World Cup and the onus was on the Irish, now led by William Porterfield, to be the torchbearers for the ‘have-nots’ of the cricket world. The non-Test playing nations were derided as ‘minnows’ and their very presence in the tournament was being questioned.

  Canada, Kenya and Netherlands had done little to change that opinion, so Ireland decided to take matters in their own hands. On a balmy night in Bangalore, red-haired Kevin O’Brien rampaged against old enemy England to provide the World Cup with its most astonishing spectacle. Ireland came into this game on the back of a narrow defeat to Bangladesh and needed something special to turn the tide.

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         Underdogs Ireland were the story of the 2007 World Cup as they notched famous wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh (source – icc-cricket.com) 

  The English batsmen filled their boots on a flat wicket and piled 327/8. Never before had this big a total been chased down successfully in a World Cup match. Ireland lost Porterfield off the very first ball, and despite positive intent from Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce – back with his native team four years after he last played for England – the writing was on the wall at 111/5 in the 25th over. Or so it seemed.

  With the assured presence of Alex Cusack at the other end, O’Brien unleashed himself on the English bowlers and into the record books. He blitzed the fastest World Cup hundred of all time – from just 50 balls – and ended up with 113 from 63 balls with 13 fours and six of the cleanest sixes one would ever see. By the time he was out in the 49th over, a lost cause had been turned into certain victory, which was duly achieved with five balls to spare. It was a script straight out of a fairytale.

  O’Brien had overnight become the poster boy of Irish cricket. Ireland had well and truly arrived and were no longer pushovers. Even though they did not make the quarterfinals, their performance was enough to put pressure on the ICC to reconsider their decision and hence continue with the 14-team format for the 2015 edition. If the 2007 win over Pakistan was a watershed moment, the 2011 win over England opened the floodgates.

  The significance of defeating England created a deep impact on the Irish cricketing scene. Test cricket was now a realistic prospect, national cricketers had professional contracts, participation had increased manifold and Irish cricket now had a future to look forward to. Yet, between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, Ireland played just nine ODIs against Test nations. It was a damning indictment of the indifference with which non-Test nations have been treated over the years.

  Pakistan and England toured Ireland in 2011, Australia in 2012. But one or two sporadic fixtures were hardly what an emerging team needed to further spread its wings. 2013 marked the arrival of a new inter-provincial domestic system consisting of three teams and contested in all three formats. Pakistan, en route to England for the Champions Trophy, played two more ODIs in Dublin in what was a thrilling series.

  Kevin O’Brien was at it again as Ireland were faced with a challenging revised target of 276 in 47 overs in the first game. A breezy 103 from Stirling set the chase up nicely and it ultimately came down to 15 runs off the final over. O’Brien (84* from 47 balls) collected 6,2, 4 off the last three balls to help tie the game. In the second ODI, Ireland let Pakistan off the hook and lost the series in the process.

  Tim Murtagh and Johnston had Pakistan on the mat at 17/4 after Ed Joyce’s sublime 116* guided Ireland to 229/8. However, the hosts could not sustain that level and watched ruefully as the lower order took Pakistan home. Later in the season, England hopped across for their customary solitary ODI, in what was billed as the biggest game of cricket on Irish soil. 

  This game marked the international debut of Ireland’s new ground, The Village at Malahide in Dublin. Bright sunshine greeted a capacity crowd of more than 10,000 as Irish cricket gloriously showed itself off to the world. The cricket itself was of high quality, but Ireland had to endure the disappointment of an English win made possible by one of their own.

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        Ireland’s most memorable ODI win came against England in 2010-11, with Kevin O’Brien smashing the fastest World Cup century  (source – theguardian.com)

  Eoin Morgan, who shifted allegiance to England in 2009 with a desire to play Test cricket was now captain of his adopted team, and he produced a match-winning 124* to propel England to a victory which seemed a distant possibility when the score read 48/4 in reply to Ireland’s 269/7. The home captain Porterfield had earlier made a hundred of his own, striking 112 to delight the crowd. Two Irishmen had scored centuries, yet Ireland ended up on the losing side.

  It was not long after that the ICC proclaimed that the 2019 World Cup would consist of only team teams – and this time the decision was to stay. Come the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Ireland once again had to defy lack of opportunities and the injustice of the powers-that-be to prove that they belonged to the world stage. Direct qualification by winning the WCL was expected, and the next target was a quarterfinal berth down under.

  Ireland’s first opponents were the West Indies at Nelson. Their joy knew no bounds as the Windies slipped to 87/5 after being put in to bat. But a hundred from Lendl Simmons – nephew of Ireland’s long-time coach Phil Simmons – steered the eventual total to a sturdy 304/7. The wicket was however good to bat on, the ground was small and the West Indian attack pedestrian.

  The Irish top order cashed in gleefully and a chase which would have had most teams in a quandary instead turned out to be clinically straightforward. Stirling (92 from 84 balls), Joyce (84 from 67) and Niall O’Brien (79* from 60) all starred and a four-wicket win was achieved with as many as 25 balls unused. This was a match Ireland were expected to win and it was ample proof that they had simply outgrown the ‘Associate’ tag.

  With this win, Ireland became the first team to successfully chase down a total of more than 300 on three occassions in the World Cup. Two more wins were achieved in the group stage – both nail-biting affairs – against UAE and Zimbabwe respectively. But heavy defeats to South Africa and India meant that Ireland lost out to the West Indies for a place in the quarterfinals by virtue of net run rate.

  Since the 2015 World Cup, Ireland along with Afghanistan have been permanently admitted into the ICC ODI Championship table. However, they have played only five ODIs in this period. This state of affairs is set to change slightly, as a clutch of matches have been scheduled over the next one year. Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan will all be touring Ireland this summer. Ireland will later travel to South Africa to play the hosts as well as Australia.

  Hopefully, this is a sign for an even more regular diet of fixtures against higher ranked teams. With Ireland all but certain to play its first Test match sooner than later, the next few years promise to be an exciting period for Irish cricket as it prepares to take yet another giant step foward.