June 9, 2009 12:50:15 am
Remember them? The sheep farmers,school teachers and lorry drivers who made the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean their own are back,with a bang.
Ireland,who had sent Pakistan out early from the West Indies two years ago,tore into a hopeless Bangladesh team,beating them by six wickets at Trent Bridge to make it to the next stage of the World Twenty20 championships.
Doing the damage were some familiar names. Boyd Rankin,son of sheep farmers from Londonderry,took some early stick but came back to dismiss Naeem Islam with Bangladesh looking for a final flourish. Trent Johnston,captain of the 2007 campaign,returned from retirement and took 3 for 20 from his four overs. And the architects of the chase were the OBrien brothers.
Niall came to the crease in the third over,with his team struggling at six for one. He had been injured during fielding,and decided to take a bit of a punt on the short leg-side boundary. Three sixes off a Mashrafe Mortaza over,the fifth of the innings,got the chase well and truly underway. The finishing touches were then applied by younger brother Kevin. He walked in with 50 needed off 34 deliveries. He got 39 of those in just 17 balls,the winning shot an authoritative thump over long-off.
It sparked off wild celebrations in the dug-out and in the stands,where about 500 travelling supporters had made enough noise for 10 times that number. Niall said later that the atmosphere reminded him of Six Nations Rugby games he used to watch,bang opposite his house in Lansdowne Road in Dublin.
NOT AN UPSET
For us,this wasnt an upset, the wicketkeeper,named Man of the Match for his batting at the top,said. We came into this match knowing we could beat Bangladesh,knowing we were better than them.
That they were,by a mile and then some. Bangladeshs top four batsmen started off as if they were organising an end-of-season sale: Everything Must Go. Junaid Siddique tried to clear the ropes at mid-wicket,but just about got the ball to short fine-leg. Tamim Iqbal was run out,again. Mohammad Ashraful edged one to slip,and was put down. So he edged another one to slip. This time Gary Wilson held on.
It was only a late burst by Mashrafe Mortaza that got them to 137,but that was never going to be enough on a flat track and a sunny day. Definitely not with the OBriens in the house.
For the second time in two years,calls will be made to offices around Dublin,asking for extended leave. While the players themselves had slipped back into anonymity,but for a few who play county cricket,the teams performance in the Caribbean had done a lot of good for cricket in the country. There are more and more kids playing the game now,theres more focus within the cricket community. We have got good infrastructure, Niall said. Were not close to getting Test status,but we now have two professional players. The finances dont allow the board to put all players on central contracts,but we need to keep doing well in the big tournaments,make sure we do well when we get the chance at the higher levels.
Ireland play India on Wednesday and had a training session scheduled for 9 am on Tuesday morning. But before the teams media manager,Barry Chambers,walked out of the press conference,he said with a smile that nets might be rescheduled for later.
Ireland crickets more immediate plans involved a few well-deserved rounds of drinks.
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