Ireland produced the first shock of the 2015 World Cup as they defeated the West Indies by four-wickets in Nelson providing further evidence that they are more than capable of competing with the recognised international teams around the World.
Ireland chased down the West Indies total of 304-7 and did so with relative ease. When the winning runs were hit by John Mooney there were still 25 balls remaining in their innings.
Ireland’s run chase was largely thanks to some fine batting displays from Paul Stirling (92), Ed Joyce (84) and Niall O’Brien (79*).
This run chase was the third time that Ireland have chased over 300 to win an ODI at a World Cup. The most famous of which, prior to today, was their defeat of England in the 2011 World Cup. This victory though was much more impressive from a team point of view. In 2011 Ireland had to rely on an individual piece of brilliance as Niall O’Brien hit a fantastic century to guide them to victory. However, this victory over the West Indies was achieved by an all-round team effort.
Yes this was a One-Day International and not a five-day Test match but Ireland are showing that the gap between the Test playing nations and themselves is shortening all the time. To learn to play Test match cricket the Irish need to be given the opportunity to do so and that day must surely be on the horizon and a victory like this will increase the demand for it to happen soon.
Struggles for the West Indies
Ireland’s victory will be classed as an upset, and another huge achievement for the minnows, but it was not as much a shock as many people may think.
Whilst cricket in Ireland is thriving the West Indies seem to be in decline. They are experiencing troubled times with players not selected due to contract disputes, the abandonment of their recent tour to India, a genuine fall in standards and a recognition that the sport is no longer the sole attraction for youngsters in their country. Lets not also forget their humiliation by England in an earlier warm-up game.
No longer can the West Indies produce a multitude of world-class cricketers with only Chris Gayle worthy of selection into an ODI World XI at present and the rest would probably fail to be selected for a second string.
Ireland on the other hand are going through ground-breaking change. They already have a sell-out clash with England scheduled for this summer, they have fantastic facilities at their Malahide ground and have been boosted by new investment in the game at all levels.
Most of the Irish players play first-class cricket now and many of them are learning their trade in the demanding environment of the English county game. Almost on a daily basis they are being exposed to intense training and match situations and are doing so in very favourable conditions. This can only improve their game and that of their country.
If Ireland can reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup, which is now a very realistic proposition, it will be a huge achievement for them and will provide further evidence that Ireland are a fast-emerging nation in International cricket and one that cannot be ignored much longer.