Ireland will head home from the World Twenty20 this week, beaten not on the field but by the weather in Guyana.
Their second and final group game, against England, was abandoned last night just 21 balls into the second innings and the one point for the ‘no result’ was enough to send Paul Collingwood’s side through to the Super Eights, along with the West Indies.
For William Porterfield’s squad, desperate to make up for the disappointment of their drubbing at the hands of the hosts in their first game, this outcome was just as hard to take because if they had got back on the field Ireland were in a glorious position to cause the first upset of this tournament.
Indeed after a stoppage of almost an hour, it was announced that Ireland’s revised target was 60 from nine overs and having reached 14 for one from 3.3 overs, the underdogs would have been favourites.
But it was not to be. Minutes after that announcement, the rains swept in again and shortly afterwards the teams shook hands before going their separate ways, England to Barbados and the Ireland players back to domestic cricket.
The player of the abbreviated match was an Irishman — but, unfortunately, he wasn’t playing in green. Eoin Morgan (pictured) carried on from where he left off on Monday with another outrageously talented innings, finishing with more than twice as many runs as any of his team-mates.
Coming to the middle at 32 for three, after the loss of two wickets in four balls, he started cautiously, as always, but a superb reverse sweep off George Dockrell took him into second gear. By the 12th over, and the introduction of Alex Cusack, he clipped him to fine leg and next over pulled Dockrell to deep mid-wicket.
By the time Botha returned for his second spell, Morgan’s glorious cover drive only underlined just what Ireland are missing. The Dubliner wasn’t able to see the innings to its conclusion, however, dismissed three balls before the end for 45 off 37 balls as his attempt to clear long-on ended in the safe hands of Gary Wilson.
But again England were indebted to his class because although 120 was by no means a winning total, on a slow, low pitch, it was probably above par, certainly against an Ireland team so badly out of form with the bat.
Sure enough, when Ireland’s innings started on time, Paul Stirling was dismissed again without scoring although only because of a stunning diving catch by Michael Lumb on the square leg boundary.
Niall O’Brien replaced Stirling and had time to hit a couple of boundaries but whether it was the start of an Ireland charge will never be known. The rain was to have the final say.
The major surprise in the England innings was the absence of Stirling in the Ireland bowling attack. Despite Dockrell conceding just 19 runs in his four overs, the off spinner never got a look-in, even though Cusack bowled only one over. And although Boyd Rankin appeared unsuited by the pitch, Porterfield bravely recalled him for the final two overs from the Media Centre End and was rewarded with two late wickets, including the dangerous Luke Wright for 20.
Lumb and Craig Kieswetter had given England the perfect start, with 24 off four overs, but the first change of bowling brought the first wicket, Lumb finding Rankin at backward square where he took a tumbling catch.
Kieswetter was run out when Kevin Pietersen, rightly, sent back his South Africa-born colleague but the opener was inches short as Niall O’Brien took John Mooney’s throw and removed the bails. Three balls later Trent Johnston got the wicket he deserved when he found the edge of Paul Collingwood’s bat and this time Botha made no mistake.
Pietersen never settled as the young and old of the Ireland attack tied him down — Johnston, bowling an excellent full length, and Dockrell, with the confidence of a veteran, tossing up the ball and tempting the batsmen. After scoring nine runs from 17 balls, England’s biggest name pulled O’Brien to deep mid-wicket and Mooney held the third catch of the innings. The rest of the innings belonged to Morgan.
The Ireland players may be on their way home but at least pride has been restored.
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the former chief constable of the RUC and PSNI, has been named as the new head of the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit.
Sir Ronnie is currently an advisor to the Abu Dhabi Police Force.