Belfast Telegraph

Cricket: Ireland beat Pakistan fair and square

By Robin Walsh

The hullabaloo over the shocking allegations swirling around the Pakistan cricket team revives memories of their remarkable defeat by Ireland in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

And, inevitably, people are now asking — was it all that it appeared to be?

From where I was sitting at the time — the Press Box looking right down the 22 yards of Sabina Park, Jamaica — there was no doubt.

Ireland won brilliantly and above board.

And despite the events of the past week, that remains my unshakeable view.

Ireland’s three wicket win took them to the final Super 8 stages and sent Pakistan home on an early flight.

But they departed without their highly respected coach and former England Test player, Bob Woolmer, who died in his hotel room a matter of hours after the defeat.

It was first thought that 58 year-old Woolmer had suffered a heart attack. Within days, however, the official post mortem report from the Jamaican Government pathologist stated that “death was due to asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation.”

He had been murdered, said the local police.

Speculation abounded — the most popular surrounded match fixing and a ‘betting Mafia’, the theory being that this most professional of coaches had got wind of dirty tricks in his side’s defeat by the West Indies in the first group game of the tournament and was about to spill the beans.

No problem in losing that game, went the theory — subsequent victories over Ireland and Zimbabwe would still guarantee Pakistan’s qualification to the Super 8 final stages.

So murder equalled match fixing — save Woolmer wasn’t murdered. Months passed before a Scotland Yard investigation and another post mortem proved that Woolmer had, in fact, died of a heart attack after all.

And the Ireland match on that famous St Patrick’s Day in the sun?

At the height of the conspiracy theory regarding the West Indies game I wrote: “If the West Indies defeat was deliberate, it was not to reckon with defeat at the hands of Ireland — beaten fairly and squarely and of that there can be no doubt. Anyone who saw the drama at Kingston’s Sabina Park will testify to that — Pakistan were desperate to win and employed the most unsavoury, intimidating tactics in a vain attempt to do so.”

Ireland had reduced Pakistan to 132 for 7, thanks to a pitch conducive to seam bowling allied to some quite remarkable catching.

There was no giving away of Pakistan wickets, Ireland took them brilliantly.

In Niall O’Brien, Ireland then found a true hero with 72, and it was fitting that skipper Trent Johnston hit the winning six to take Ireland into the history books.

Some of the cricket played in England this summer by Pakistan may be dreadfully tarnished.

Not so at Sabina Park three and a half years ago.

Before the game Bob Woolmer told me he was wary of Ireland “a real potential banana skin” was how he put it.

An hour after Ireland’s victory I met Woolmer again and I sympathised with him.

“You don’t need to do that”, he said. “Just enjoy the moment.”

And that’s the way it will stay.

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