Ireland pulled off one of the shocks of the World Cup so far with their four-wicket victory over the West Indies, but their respective turnarounds should not come as such a surprise.
The Windies have spent the last year in disarray, pulling out of their tour of India after an off-field dispute over pay with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). That has coincided with a marked dip in form, with even Chris Gayle looking out of sorts at this World Cup.
Ireland continue to improve
As for Ireland, the Boys in Green have been building up to something special in the decade preceding this year’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand. In the last 12 months alone, they have achieved the pinnacle of beating England, and more crucially developed an enviable spin attack which left their opponents bewildered.
Though the West Indies looked to have wrapped things up, Ireland once again demonstrated remarkable spirit in their fight-back. For many of the competition’s minnows, the task of chasing down 304 – especially with 124 of those runs coming in the last 10 overs – would have sealed their fate.
The Irish project
However, John Mooney saw them over the line to cap yet another incredible innings, despite suffering with cramp in his lower legs for what looked like the duration. The ICC’s decision to fine Mooney 30% of his match fee for bad language should not take the shine off what was a noteworthy contribution to Irish cricket’s ongoing project.
In the very years when the West Indies have been declining, Ireland have thrived, thanks in part to a number of stars from the English County Championship. Sussex man Ed Joyce, who defected from England in 2010, put on a key partnership of 104 with Paul Stirling, before Leicestershire’s Niall O’Brien replaced the latter at the crease.
They face fellow outsiders the United Arab Emirates on February 23rd, by which time they will have had over a week to recuperate. Following that, they will face Zimbabwe in Hobart, another game for which they will be favourites. The Windies victory leaves them in a perfect position for escaping Pool B and qualifying for the quarter-finals, and deservedly so.