ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

England v Ireland, Group B, World Cup 2011, Bangalore

Ireland aim to take down the old enemy

Liam Brickhill in Bangalore

March 1, 2011

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With their boisterous, fun-loving demeanour both on and off the pitch, Ireland were always going to be one of the Associate teams that, as AB de Villiers said, make the World Cup "more colourful". When captain Will Porterfield arrived for a pre-match press conference ahead of their encounter with England in Bangalore tomorrow, it quickly became apparent that that description could be applied quite literally too, as he took off his cap to reveal a shock of bright purple hair.

Porterfield on the difference between England and Ireland

  • "If you look at England, they've got that first-class structure and a very good one at that, and you can produce a lot of cricketers from that. You've got a lot of county systems, the volume of numbers playing the game over there and they've got that natural progression up through the ranks to get up through first-class and onto the international level.
  • "In Ireland, we're at the stage where we're pretty much a club-orientated country and that gap between club cricket and the country is something we've got to get a structure to bridge in terms of producing more international cricketers. I think like everything in sport a lot comes down to funding and you can only do so much if your hands are tied on that front. We're making steps in the right direction and we've just got to get that stage where we're producing more international cricketers."

"You're not imagining things," he explained, smiling. "The Irish Cancer Society and Today FM, a radio station back home, they run a 'Shave or Dye' campaign in February. It's just about raising awareness. There's a few interesting lids floating about, five of us dyed and a good few shaved. Boyd Rankin's got his own dyed blue as well, Kevin O'Brien's similar to me own and there's a bit of blonde in there. Anything we can do for the cancer society back home is good, it's for a good cause."

It would be wrong, of course, to interpret the team's jovial attitude as a sign that they're not taking this tournament seriously. They are, and having risen to level on points with Zimbabwe in the ICC's one-day rankings, there's no denying their status at the top of the Associate pile. They're at the threshold of full membership, and the team knows full well what slaying a couple of giants in this tournament would do for their case. More immediately, there's also the small matter of getting one over on the 'old enemy' - England.

"We need absolutely no motivation when facing the old enemy and I know how desperate everyone in the camp is to atone for what we see as our failure on Friday night," Porterfield wrote in his World Cup Diary on Sunday. "In many ways the game is like a local derby, and we know anything can happen on the day."

Shortly after Ireland's mid-morning practice session on a steaming hot day in Bangalore, Porterfield expounded further on what the game means for Ireland: "I think it is [a special occasion]. Any Irish sports team playing an English team is always pretty special for them, and especially to people back home. They always want to see us get one over on the English, so I'm sure there'll be plenty back home watching and hoping for a positive result from the Irish. Anyone can slip up on any particular day, but [England] are playing good cricket and we've just got to be on top of our own game."

Ireland are also under added pressure to take down one of the bigger teams after their 27-run loss to Bangladesh in Dhaka last week - a match they could easily have won. "To go through our group we're going to have to win probably three of our next five games, so every game is kind of a must-win from here on in," Porterfield said. "But we can't look too far ahead in terms of the result, we've just got to look at the process of how we get there and what we've got to put right from the last game and how we've got to go about our own game.

"The day after the game and that night the lads were pretty gutted. It's no lie, anyone that loses a game like that you're going to be pretty down, but that's professional sport. You've got to pick yourself up from the lows like that. It's no secret our batting let us down, there were a few soft dismissals in there. It's just a matter of being a bit tougher on ourselves. You can't afford to give away free wickets like that. It's just being cricket smart, there's nothing dramatic that has to change."

William Porterfield sports a colourful hairstyle ahead of the England game, World Cup 2011, Bangalore, March 1, 2011
William Porterfield dyed his hair for a good cause © AFP

It may well be the bowlers, rather than the batsmen, who are more anxious ahead of Tuesday's game after watching 676 runs being scored in England's game against India at the same venue. Porterfield insisted he had confidence in Boyd Rankin and George Dockrell, perhaps the two most important members of his attack.

"[Rankin] has got all the attributes to be a fantastic bowler. He went for a few in Dhaka. They got a few away and that can happen to anyone on their day. I still think he's one of our main wicket-taking threats. He may go for a few runs but as we've seen in this tournament you've got to take wickets to peg things back and he's one of our main wicket-takers and I'm pretty confident he can bounce back.

"[Dockrell] is pretty new to the game. He only came in last year in the Twenty20 World Cup and was dropped in at the deep end in the West Indies. He hadn't had much experience before then, he had one Under-19 World Cup under his belt. He's taken everything in his stride, he's a pretty level-headed young guy. He's just finished school and he's done pretty well there as well.

They are utterly different species as bowlers, Dockrell a mantis-limbed left-arm spinner and Rankin a towering 6' 6" fast bowler, but they may well end up sharing the new ball. Spin has been introduced very early by several teams in this tournament, and it appeared Dockrell could be given the responsibility of exploiting Kevin Pietersen's much-discussed weakness against left-arm spin.

"Anything is possible, it's definitely an option for us," Porterfield admitted. "He's bowled in the Powerplays for us before, and he's bowled in the first six overs in Twenty20s so that's nothing new to him. He knows how to bowl with the new ball so that's definitely an option as well."

While obviously focussing on the present and the immediate challenge of taking on England, a team Ireland have never beaten, Porterfield is also well aware of his team's duty as pioneers of Irish cricket and the important position they occupy in Ireland's cricketing history.

"Cricket's been played in Ireland for a very long time now, since 1855 we've been playing cricket as a nation. We want to get to the stage where we become a full member ourselves and get into the Future Tours Programme. We want to get to the stage where lads don't have to make that call [to play for England] or have to move on and play that way. We want to be in a position where we can contract 12 to 15 full-time Irish cricketers.

"In an ideal scenario we'd have 15 lads contracted back in Dublin training day in, day out. It's obviously a financial thing, it's a fixtures thing, it's everything, but we're at the stage now where that's where we want to be and everyone's working towards that and hopefully we'll get there."

Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 7 
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Posted by Andrew on (March 2, 2011, 3:49 GMT)

Hopefully this will be a good game - England make a habit out of close games v minnows! Judging where the Poms are after the 2 games they have had is nearly impossible. Against the Netherlands they were outplayed for about 90 overs, then at various times looked done & dusted v India, but then came home strongly, (both innings), to share the points. IF Ireland can play hard competitive cricket for the WHOLE 100 overs, they stand a good chance of winning, conversely England will need to play well (be on top), for more then 10 overs to win this time around.

Posted by aaditya on (March 1, 2011, 17:45 GMT)

i am actually looking forward to this game specially bcoz both these countries hav a history and both will really want to win this contest..england is obviously a much better side but such games sometimes can bring surprises!i hav high hopes of ireland for the future bcoz they just look the perfect team to raise to the next level!!they hav a decent domestic setup bcoz of english county,and they might be the 11th test team in maybe another 4-5 years or hopefully earlier! what they did in 07' was a real shock,but what really was most enjoyable was the celebrations they did after a wkt or a win!!i felt bad when they lost to bangladesh,but tomorrow is a new day and they will be fired up playing against the old enemy!!atleast it will be better contest than watching kenya vs (x,y,z)!!

Posted by Abhimanyu on (March 1, 2011, 15:22 GMT)

It is high time that Ireland come up with a spirited performance against England. Let's hope we can see some fireworks going.

Posted by marc on (March 1, 2011, 14:45 GMT)

really looking forward to tomorrow, both teams have had mixed starts to the tournament. The english have limped over the line against the dutch but returned to form in the blockbuster with the indians. Likewise Ireland were reasonably impressive in defeat against Bangladesh, a game they could and should have won. England to win with a bit to spare but Ireland to again show that they are easily the strongest and most consistent associate nation. Hopefully we'll get a laugh from the lads haircuts too.

Posted by Rakesh on (March 1, 2011, 13:56 GMT)

Ireland can bring more sponsorship money in the game than Bangladesh. Any Indian company willing to sponsor a foreign cricket team would prefer sponsoring IRELAND cricket team 100 times than the Bangladesh team. And 95% sponsors for cricket are from India. Playing in Ireland is also more colorful for Indian players than playing in Bangladesh. The day matches broadcasted from Ireland are suitable for proime time viewing in India due to time shift. For Indian companies looking for sponsoring cricket team and eyeing a window for European market also Ireland is 100 times a better option. Also opinion of general Indian cricket fans is more favourable towards Ireland so go ahead. Ireland will add a great colour to cricketing world.Also due to eligibility criteria even some English and SA players will be eligible for Playing in Ireland at the highest level.So you can always be certain for minimum quality of cricket. Go Ireland Go. ICC help them out before it becomes like Kenya.

Posted by Rakesh on (March 1, 2011, 13:47 GMT)

Considering the fact that Ireland has such good plans for cricket, it is high time ICC gives them full membership. If quality of cricket is the criteria Ireland is right up there. Also the fact that matches against England brings passion in here make things much easier for Ireland. One thing for sure the performance of Ireland will never be worse than what Bangladesh provided in last one decade. Also involved in Future Tour program gives a sense of purpose. Cricket must be involved vigorously in primary schools and the ambitions will lead Ireland to great things. It is very certain that matches against Ireland in India will definitely sell more than the matches against Bangladesh the world over namely in India ,England, Australia, SA , Pakistan and WI. So what is the issue here.

Posted by Ross on (March 1, 2011, 13:40 GMT)

I'd say Ireland should try compete as a club in the English leagues, but no one has toppled the County system in 200 years. Pity that, because it needs to go.

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