The road to Mumbai

Victory eluded them in their opening fixture of the ICC Cricket World Cup campaign, but their face-off with England will surely revitalise the Irish spirit, writes Micheál Halton

The 10th Cricket World Cup opened in spectacular style with a massive opening ceremony in the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Irish team kicked off their campaign against Bangladesh on Friday and held them to just 205 runs after a strong bowling performance from Andre Botha (32-3) and teenager George Dockrell (23-2).

Unfortunately Ireland weren’t able to muster up the momentum to overhaul Bangladesh’s total as key players lost their wickets cheaply and Ireland were eventually bowled out for 178, realistically ending any hopes they had of progressing to the next stage. This match was vital to Ireland’s hopes, as they had defeated Bangladesh in the 2007 tournament, and they would have been hoping to repeat the trick this year. The fact that Bangladesh had been comprehensively beaten by India on the opening day would also have boosted the confidence of William Porterfield and co.

The manner of the defeat will be massively disappointing as Ireland restricted the dangerous Bangladesh batsmen to just 205 runs, after a threatening start, where Tamim Iqbal and Imrum Kayes moved Bangladesh to an impressive 49-0 after five overs. A change in the pace of the bowling brought an upturn in Ireland’s fortunes and a reduction in the run rate as Botha and John Mooney replaced Trent Johnston and Boyd Rankin, who were getting beaten around the park by Tamim, who hit seven boundaries in his quick-fire 44.

Wickets soon began to fall. Botha took the prize wicket of Tamim, as well as Shakib and Mooney took the wicket of Kayes before Siddique was run out for three. Bangladesh looked in trouble at 86-4 after their brilliant opening, before Dockrell came into the attack to put further pressure on Bangladesh, bowling a maiden in his first over.

The 18-year-old continuously frustrated the Bangladeshi batsmen throughout his ten overs, claiming two richly deserved wickets. Andrew White ran out Raqibul Hasan before Johnston cleaned up the tail, with Dockrell fittingly catching the final ball off a Johnston delivery to end Bangladesh’s innings.

Ireland started their innings steadily enough with Paul Stirling and Porterfield leading off. Stirling didn’t last long however and the talented right-hander was gone for only nine. Porterfield soon followed as Ireland reached 44-2 after ten overs. Ed Joyce came in and built a promising partnership of 39 with Niall O’Brien but unfortunately, he was bowled by Ashraful just as Ireland looked like they were building some momentum.

Andrew White came in and hit ten runs before becoming Ashraful’s second victim of the day. Kevin O’Brien then took to the crease to bat alongside his brother but their partnership lasted just three overs with Niall going for 38, after a superb catch by Tamim. Botha joined O’Brien on the crease and they formed Ireland’s best pairing of the day with 41. O’Brien hit a spectacular boundary in the 33rd over, which looked like it could form the basis in an Irish victory, but it wasn’t to be.

O’Brien was caught in the deep off Shaiful Islam in the 36th and this left Ireland needing 54 runs from the last 13 overs with just one recognised batsman remaining. This mammoth task became even harder when John Mooney came to the crease and couldn’t manage a single run before being bowled by Naeem Islam for a rather disheartening duck.

Botha followed him to the stand soon afterwards for just 22, this left Ireland needing 37 runs from 9 overs which was made even harder when Johnston managed just a paltry 6 before being bowled by Shafiful. The game was up for Ireland as Shafiful took Rankin’s wicket to complete a Bangladesh victory by 27 runs as well creating a new Bangladesh World Cup bowling record of 4-21.

Ireland’s next game will be against England in Bangalore on Wednesday and despite the defeat, they will be able to take a number of positives from this display. Their fielding and bowling were impressive and they will need to repeat that performance against England as well as improve their batting if they are to have any chance of staging a huge upset.

England had a poor start to their campaign as they scraped to a six-wicket win over the Netherlands with just eight balls to spare. Ryan ten Doeschate inspired the Netherlands to a figure of 292 runs for the English to chase after. England produced a poor bowling and fielding performance, something that Ireland will hope to capitalise on.

This Irish side should not be discounted, as they have made enormous strides since the last World Cup with all but two of the squad now playing professionally. Ireland will need to continue producing strong performances against the Test-playing nations if they are to be promoted from Associate nation status by the ICC. A win against England on Wednesday would be the perfect way to promote their cause and a terrific achievement to take from the World Cup.