Last night was incredible! To be witnessing a lesser fancied team scripting a world cup record chase to topple their ‘big brothers’ by coming from behind courtesy the fastest world cup century was a double delight for all those sports lovers of Bangalore who had walked in through the turnstile of Chinnaswamy with a unassumptous objective of catching up on some cricket on a public holiday and experiencing a bit of the world cup caravan that has been in town for some time now. At the half way mark the cynics had already put their caps on crucifying the associate nations for their villainous contribution in making the world cup’s first phase predictable and boring and when the Irish skipper William Porterfield lost his timber to James Anderson off the first delivery of the chase, the whispers gained further momentum.
By the 25th over with just the nelson figure of 111 on board and half the side back in the hut, the hope of crossing the finish line of 329 runs was looking ominous for Ireland. The inevitable was written on the wall and the media personnel around the world would have started filing yet another monotonous match report, similarly the crowd to avoid the chaotic match day traffic around MG road and Infantry road was prompted to bid good byes to their fellow mates in the galleries but that is exactly when Kevin O’ Brien, born on 4th March 1984 had come to the center with a single eyed focus of celebrating his 27th birthday two days in advance in front of his parents.
A well knit 167 runs partnership between Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott had taken the game away beyond Ireland’s reach before John Mooney and Trent Johnston with some common sense wicket to wicket bowling pulled things back into the fold restricting England for a commendable 328 runs. For the first 75 overs of the match Ireland had looked good in patches but were generous in their approach allowing England to tighten the noose at crucial junctures. Graeme Swann’s wily skills had strangled them and when Kevin O’ Brien hit two sixes off a Swann over it was conceived to be a flash in the pan before he held out in the deep. Not a single being watching this ‘one sided’ affair would have predicted that it was a warm up before the launch of the main act! Those two sixes over the midwicket fence triggered off a period of 12 overs including 5 overs of power play of brutal hitting and sensible batting. The contrasting approach of Kevin O’ Brien and Alex Cusack complemented their style of play as they amassed 130 runs in 72 balls and it was that stretch of the game which shifted the momentum in Ireland’s favour. From there on it was the batting side’s match to loose and Cusack’s misjudgment leading to his run out after a 162 runs partnership at the pace of 9.43 runs per over threw the possibilities of yet another turnaround but the junior Brien found a greater alley in John Mooney who was unbeaten on 33 when the final runs were scored.
The anchor of the chase, Kevin O’ Brien during the course of his innings not only become Ireland’s highest one day run scorer but also engraved his names in the individual records book as the fastest centurion of world cup cricket, and by the time he was run out in the penultimate over of the match he would have surely booked a few appointments with some of the Indian Premier League franchisee owners. In his blitzkrieging display of batting he was particularly severe on James Anderson, Michael Yardy and Tim Bresnan who gave away 24 runs apiece to him from 6 overs between them. With Swann’s quota completed much before the anti-climax, Strauss was short of wicket takers forcing him to over attack by bringing in 5 fielders inside the ring and in the hindsight the ploy boomeranged as the batsmen got the license to go over the top of the infield. If the first 25 overs of the innings had produced only 11 fours and 2 sixes, the Irish made up for the dearth in the business end of the innings by registering 22 hits to the fence and 7 over it. In the end it was the difference in the boundaries and sixes (England – 26/5, Ireland – 33/9) that sealed the verdict in favour of the boys in green.
Once the night’s hero made his intentions clear and showed his flair and capabilities, he was backed and trusted by the nearly 10,000 people to produce an entertaining spectacle. Till then the crowd had applauded for every good shot played and every wicket taken without any loyalties but the moment a sense of history being made was felt in the air, Ireland became the home team for the evening. Every run was reciprocated with thunderous roar and suddenly the decibel level around the ground picked up, much better than what the shout meter had recorded before the lights were on. The ascending energy level impacted the English who looked brain frozen on the park, the English flags disappeared from sight and mentally England had lost before Ireland had won. The presence of a strong Irish contingent in the stands contributed to the frenzied atmosphere and the smile on their faces signified the importance of the victory against their geographical neighbours in the background of difficult political relationship between the two nations.
Unpredictability is what makes sports a beautiful exponent of joy and hope and enables it to be the biggest catalyst in a turbulent society. Miracles evoke priceless emotions that cannot be described in words and Ireland’s night with destiny on 2nd March 2011 qualifies to be one of those ‘I was there’ moments for every single soul who witnessed it live and for those who had left the stadium early, it was a hard way to learn that a game of cricket is not over till the last ball is bowled. Ireland’s next contest against India in three days time from now may be a one sided affair with Indian batsmen massaging their ego but the result will in no way diminish the degree of spark that the Irish have ignited.
Link to the match score card: http://www.espncricinfo.com/icc_cricket_worldcup2011/engine/match/433572.html
Credit to www.espncricinfo.com for the statistics and image
3rd March 2011,2.07pm
P.S – For records Rakesh Shastri, Siddhartha Dasgupta, Sanketh Katti, Sudip Dhar, Sidhanta Patnaik were there at M. Chinnaswamy, Bangalore on 2nd March 2011 to witness history