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Ireland leave the tournament soggy and sick.
In their must win game, they never bowled a ball. Ireland cricket has had far better tournaments than this. It seems odd that two matches, one of which was only half finished, constitutes a tournament.
This is their biggest stage. The one time they can be rewarded for all the work they do when no one is watching, when they can finally pay back their sponsors and help promote cricket in a country that isn't obsessed with it. In the last two World Cups, they've won key matches and some respect. It's harder to do that in a game and a half. The only thing most of the players will take with them is the horrible memory of the gastro they all got.
Ireland are now one foot in and one foot out the bath.
They're no longer the plucky amateurs; they're a professionally run organisation. They see themselves, rightfully, as sitting with Afghanistan far above the rest of the Associates. Other than Australia and England, no other teams have agreed to regularly play them. And they simply don't play enough top level cricket.
When they do, almost always in a tournament like this, many of their players essentially go from club cricket to internationals. The step up is too big. Other players drift around the county circuit, often frustrating their counties at the amount of time off they need to represent their country. The very best players are earmarked by England as future players, and siphoned off into the bigger machine.
England play the big brother role with Ireland, but for every lift home they get, they also lose some of their lunch money.
In this tournament every time the Irish batsmen tried to step up the pace they got out. They fielded poorly in the first game. Their captain faced two balls in the tournament; both the first balls of the match and both dismissed him. Their talisman Trent Johnston looked one major tournament beyond his best. Young smasher Paul Stirling never got going. Neither O'Brien could save them. And their only true fast bowler, Boyd Rankin, couldn't leave his hotel because of illness.
West Indies travel through to the second round without completing or winning a game. Ireland might have only made 129, but Ireland is the sort of team that would have tried to make them earn it.
They never got that chance.
For some Associates, this sort of tournament might be the beginning of a slow decline back into the obscurity of the lower levels of cricket. From what I've seen of Ireland over the last few years from afar, and the last few days from up close, this disappointment will just drive them to greater things.
Ireland won't be going anywhere, they'll remain in future tournaments and continue to improve. The next time a big team slips up against them, I expect them to pounce. COYBIG.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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