Cricket World Cup: Ireland are beaten but unbowed by Indians
They may not have won the match but Ireland won the respect of the Indian players and their fanatical fans as William Porterfield’s squad kept the strongest batting line-up in the World Cup in the middle for 46 overs.
While the batsmen may be disappointed to have scored only 207 on the same pitch as India and England had shared 676 runs seven days earlier, Ireland’s bowlers and fielders responded with a performance which set new standards, even for this team.
But for a knee injury to Trent Johnston, which forced him off the field after bowling only half of his 10 overs, India would have been under even more pressure in the closing stages.
Before he left M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, en route to hospital for a scan, he reduced India to 24 for two and although George Dockrell can live forever and a day on his double scalp of Sachin Tendulkar and India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, both leg before victims, no other bowler could make a breakthrough.
It wasn’t for want of trying. Boyd Rankin, after a disappointing first two games, finally reproduced the form he showed at the last World Cup, when he was Ireland’s leading wicket-taker, and although he is still waiting for his first wicket of this tournament, he did everything but find the edge of the bat and his pace and bounce consistently had India’s best playing and missing.
Backed up by fielding which repeatedly defied belief, Porterfield rang the bowling changes, but from the high of 100 for four at halfway — game on — a patient Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni were content to progress in ones and twos.
Their stand of 67, in 17 overs, was ended by Dockrell but rather than give Ireland hope, four balls later stunning hitting by Yusuf Pathan had ended Ireland’s dream.
A four and two straight sixes put India firmly in control and five overs later, his fifth boundary won the match.
There were more than 20,000 people in the ground two hours before the start, with not a seat unsold as India eagerly looked forward to a game against the team that beat England.
When the fixture list was drawn up, this was supposed to be a straightforward two points for the co-hosts but, suddenly, no-one was quite so sure. Any team that chases 328 against England
has to be respected and India’s |announcement that they were fielding an unchanged team |confirmed how seriously they were treating the game.
Ireland decided on one change, with Andrew White brought in at the expense of Gary Wilson, primarily to give Porterfield a third slow bowler on a pitch which was much dryer than the two England games last week, so a third spinner was a necessity.
Andre Botha was not considered as he was still struggling with the groin injury which prevented him taking part in Ireland’s greatest ever win.
The toss was so important — Dhoni had made it clear that, like Porterfield, he wanted to chase — but, for the third time out of three, the Ireland skipper called wrongly and half an hour later he was walking out to bat with Paul Stirling.
Four balls in, Stirling was |retracing his steps, beaten by his first ball from Zaheer Khan, |the one class pace bowler in this India side.
With his ninth ball he had claimed the big wicket of Ed Joyce, caught behind off an inside edge, the ball after he had edged just wide of second slip.
Porterfield had also been dropped in the same position, to the third ball of the game, by Pathan and that was to prove a costly miss as the skipper stayed for 38 overs — scoring 75 with just six fours and a six — to provide the glue in an Irish innings which lost its way after a masterful third-wicket stand of 113 with Niall O’Brien, who became the third Ireland batsmen to score 1,000 one-day international runs when he scored nine.
The partnership was ended by superb fielding by Virat Kohli — O’Brien paying for fatal hesitation — and that was the cue for the crowd to get excited, anticipating the entrance of the player they now call King Kev.
White didn’t delay his arrival too long, caught behind to give Yuvraj the first of his five wickets, and Kevin O’Brien confidently strode to the middle. A four through extra cover brought the boundary which everyone craved but two balls later he lobbed one back to Yuvraj to dash any hopes of a repeat of his English century.
After that it was the Yuvraj show — India’s third-choice spinner finishing five for 31 — and when he added an undefeated 50 to see the hosts to victory, the man of the match decision was a formality.
The loss means Ireland will almost certainly have to beat West Indies in their next match, in Mohali on Friday, to keep alive their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals, but this Ireland team can hold their heads high. There was no disgrace in losing this one.