The Irish camp didn't go berserk. There were no wild celebrations. Fist pumps and a handshake with the West Indies players were enough for Niall O'Brien and John Mooney after the latter hit the winning runs at the Saxton Oval.
There were no wild celebrations because Ireland knew that beating West Indies was no longer an upset. Time and again, Ireland have been undermined as a weak team and time and again they have proved their critics wrong. With the administrators trimming number of teams from 14 to 10 for the next World Cup, Ireland’s win serves as a stark reminder that the Associate nations have the ability to compete at the highest level.
This is not the first time Ireland have proved their doubters wrong either. In their first appearance in the World Cup in 2007, they beat Pakistan and Bangladesh. In 2011, they chased down over 300 to shock England.
Despite knowing that all the matches in the World Cup so far have been won by the teams batting first, Ireland captain William Porterfield still chose to field as the conditions suited the bowlers early on. A brave decision.
Ireland were disciplined with their bowling and reduced West Indies to 87 for 5 inside 25 overs. They were diving around in the field saving crucial runs. They did let it slip from that point when Lendl Simmons and Darren Sammy revived West Indies with a 154-run stand, and ended up conceding 167 runs off the last 15 overs. It allowed West Indies to become the fifth consecutive team to put up a 300-plus score batting first in this tournament. The other four all won. But that didn't seem to worry Ireland.
In the post-match conference, West Indies captain Jason Holder said that putting up 300 should have been enough. But Ireland’s batsmen came out and played positively. They clearly believed they could chase the target down. The West Indies bowlers tried to intimidate Ireland with sharp, short stuff. It did not work. In the eighth over, opener Paul Stirling was hit on the helmet after he missed a pull off Jerome Taylor. The physio had to rush out and attend to him. One ball later, Stirling pulled Taylor for a six over fine leg.
Stirling was unfortunately out for 92 but Ed Joyce (84) and Niall O'Brien (79*) made sure there was no let up for the West Indies. Together, they ensured Ireland built partnerships all through their innings. Porterfield and Stirling added 71 for the opening wicket, Stirling and Joyce added 106 and then Joyce and Niall added 96.
Ireland may have stumbled with victory in sight but their four-wicket win with 25 balls to spare is a loud statement of their capabilities.
In last four years leading up to the World Cup, Ireland played just 13 ODIs against the top-eight Full Members while West Indies played 66. This West Indies may be only a pale imitation of the glorious teams of the 70s and 80s, but for Ireland to beat them convincingly despite the unequal scales is testimony to their belief and ability.
In the post-match conference, Porterfield said: “The self belief has been there in the squad for a long time, we know what we are capable of. We thoroughly believed that we could chase this down and win this game and not just this game but all the games in the competition. We've just got to continue that in the tournament. “
"We can definitely go past the group stages, that's the belief.”
This is also the third time Ireland have made over 300 batting second to win a World Cup game. The only other teams to do so are England and Sri Lanka, who managed the feat once each.
Ireland’s victory is the perfect answer to their critics. The ICC can claim all they want that Ireland still have a path to the 2019 World Cup but they deserve more than that. They deserve more matches against the Full Members and a place at the head table.
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Updated Date: Feb 17, 2015 10:32:28 IST