Ireland may have thrown away a match they should have won but the big winner on the day was Stormont.
Forget England captain Paul Collingwood’s comments — 203 in 50 overs does not reflect a “pudding of a pitch” and cannot hide a below-standard England performance. Ireland would not have complained if they had been chasing four an over and even after the three-hour rain delay increased Ireland’s run-rate to almost six an over there was no whinging. Everyone, including England, knew they blew it.
After one dry day in the last two weeks, it was a herculean effort from the groundstaff at Civil Service North to not only have a pitch prepared, but also to allow the game to start on time.
Even more remarkable, after an hour and a half of almost steady rain, it only took as long again for the umpires to deem the square playable and set the 5,000 spectators up for such an exciting second half.
And the good news is that Stormont can only get better. New drainage is being put in this winter which should ensure the ground is even better equipped to deal with the elements. A year ago to the day, Ireland lost a match against Kenya despite there being sunshine for most of the day. That should now be a thing of the past and Belfast has an international cricket venue to be proud of.
England had always described the match as a banana skin. First they were moaning about the quick turnaround, scheduled just three days after their Ashes triumph, then they were grumbling about the pitch. The excuses were ready-made for an upset and they should have been needed.
Home advantage should count. Isn’t that what international sport is all about? Why should England get the fast tracks they play on every week. They don’t get them in the sub-continent where spin rules the day.
England will visit here only twice in the next four years so Ireland may never have a better chance to beat their nearest Test neighbours. And although the difference between 10th and 11th in the ODI world rankings may be inconsequential — Ireland dropped below Zimbabwe because of the three runs defeat rather than moving 15 points clear of the Full Member nation — a third victory, following their World Cup successes against Pakistan and Bangladesh would have brought great kudos to Irish cricket.
Collingwood’s complaints would have been seen as what they were, excuses, and Ireland would have moved onwards and upwards. Instead, they can only look back in anger and wait for the Australians to arrive in Dublin next season when they will have everything to prove all over again.