/ 16 April 2007

Ireland keep the party going with win over Bangladesh

The Irish are famed around the world for knowing how to throw a party. Now Ireland’s cricketers are not just joining world cricket’s biggest club, they’re winning matches and lots of new friends.

Ireland’s comfortable 74-run defeat of Bangladesh on Sunday in the Super Eights is the amateur side’s second victory at the World Cup.

Cricket giant Pakistan and now Bangladesh have fallen to Trent Johnston’s hugely enthusiastic players who also tied with Zimbabwe.

Because Ireland has beaten two Test-playing nations — Pakistan and Bangladesh — its formal status will change from a temporary one day international-playing nation to permanent.

The change may sound superficial but it’s not. Cricket tours are planned years in advance and countries touring England, for example, may well now start planning visits to Ireland before or after major tours for a full scare ODI series rather than the odd game.

With more competition, Irish cricket administrators hope, will come higher standards and an even better performance at the 2011 World Cup in South Asia.

Man of the match William Porterfield, whose patient 85 laid the foundations for Ireland’s total of 243, said the Caribbean experience was being felt back at home.

”I think it’s gone a bit crazy back home and hopefully cricket in Ireland can kick off from here,” he said. Bowlers danced jigs on the Kensington Oval wicket as Bangladesh batsmen fell, cheered on by hundreds of supporters of the cricket part-timers. The team did a lap of honor around the Oval after the final wicket from Johnston meant Bangladesh was bowled out for 169 in the 42nd over.

”We knew we had to get the three disciplines right today and we played almost a perfect game,” Johnston said. ”That was the best game of cricket I’ve been involved with in my four years with these guys.”

Ireland won the toss for the first time at the World Cup and batted on a fast and dry Kensington Oval wicket. Porterfield scored a sensible 85 in 136 balls to lay the foundations for an innings of 243-7 after 50 overs.

Johnston said he chose to bat because he did not want to chase a Bangladesh total on a wearing wicket. He paid tribute to the 92-run opening partnership between Porterfield and Jeremy Bray, who scored 31.

”They laid the foundations for our win. They were outstanding,” he said.

Johnston said he was delighted with the support from Irish supporters and Barbadians who were allowed in for free on Sunday.

”In Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados I think the locals have warmed to us,” he said.

A large crowd packed in to the Oval on Sunday. Thousands of sold tickets were not taken up because they had been bought by fans predicting the match would be between India and Pakistan, both of which were eliminated in the qualifying round. So organisers threw the doors open.

”We’ll have a quiet ale tonight and get on the plane tomorrow for Grenada,” Johnston said. Ireland plays its last game there against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.

Bangladesh’s gentle medium and spin attack had little success and found itself treated harshly by the big-hitting Ireland batsmen Kevin O’Brien (48) and Johnston (30).

In reply, Bangladesh appeared overanxious and only opener Tamim Iqbal, with 29, and Mohammad Ashraful, with 35, made good starts.

Iqbal and Ashraful put on 50 for the fourth wicket before Iqbal fell trying to force the pace and edged a Johnston delivery onto his own stumps.

Wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim struck two delightful fours through the covers before trying to do the same to a yorker length delivery and ending up clean bowled. A violent slash of the bat after his dismissal almost inadvertently took wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien’s head off and may be looked at by match referee Jeff Crowe.

Boyd Rankin, Dave Langford-Smith, Johnston and spinner Kyle McCallan each took two wickets. Johnston returned in the 42nd over to end the match by clean bowling captain Habibul Bashar, who put up strong resistance to score 32.

Bashar, who had relegated himself down the batting order after several failures, said his team was deeply disappointed but would have to pick itself up before Thursday’s last match against host West Indies.

”We hope we can do something in the game and go home with a bit of credit,” said the Bangladesh captain, whose team beat South Africa in the Super Eights in Guyana last week. – Sapa-AP