ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Ireland v South Africa, Group B, World Cup 2011, Kolkata
Porterfield proud of bowlers, ground-fielding
Firdose Moonda at Eden Gardens
March 15, 2011
An Irish journalist, one who has followed the team through their various divisions, arrived at Eden Gardens with hope in his heart, but reality in his head. "It's not like the last time," he said. "Then you only had to win one of our three games to get to the next round; now even if you win three games you are not assured of a place in the knockouts."
The "then" he was referring to was the 2007 World Cup, when Ireland's stunning win over Pakistan, and later Bangladesh, shook the cricketing world. So surprising was their performance that it may have played some part in the 2011 tournament structure. The two groups of seven, with the next round being the quarterfinals, is a format designed to send the Full Members through to the knockouts and the Associates home.
By its very foundation, this edition of the World Cup was built to disadvantage the smaller teams. If they wanted to challenge the system, it would require a consistent effort over a month of competition, in which they would face four Test playing nations. It means that they wouldn't be rewarded for one case of luck; they'd need to show that good fortune is matched with good skills and that they are able sustain their intensity over a period of time.
Ireland were the one Associate that stood a chance of doing that. After pushing Bangladesh to within 27 runs of a loss, they beat England, gave a respectable account of themselves against India and lost a by a margin of less than 50 runs against West Indies. Their last chance to qualify for the quarterfinals was to beat South Africa, a task as daunting as they get, and after a crushing 131-run defeat, the sparks they lit at the tournament have been put out. They still have a match to play, but it will have no impact on whether they qualify for the knockouts. The dream is over, but there is time for reflection on the highlights.
"We knew today was a final for us in terms of keeping hopes alive for qualifying," William Porterfield, the Ireland captain said. "We've done a lot of good things in this tournament. The result against England stands out, but the way we bowled and fielded throughout the tournament, especially our ground fielding has been right up there with anyone."
Ireland's commitment was on display again on Tuesday, when they threw their bodies around Eden Gardens from ball one, when Gary Wilson prevented a run from being scored. The effort they put into cutting off the run flow was undone by the two catches they dropped and it's that kind of consistency that Ireland lack.
They've been able to play well for periods of matches, but only once, against England, did the whole package come together. Issues of finishing, both with bat and ball, are some of the concerns they need to address, and Porterfield spoke about wasted opportunities.
"We got ourselves into a lot of winning positions. In the game against the West Indies we were right in the game. We should have won the game against Bangladesh in the end too." Against South Africa, they had big name opposition with their backs against the wall at 117 for 5 but then let them accumulate 272.
Porterfield was not unhappy with the bowling, even though they did not bowl South Africa out, saying that he was satisfied with the effort they made to take more wickets. "Boyd [Rankin] came back; he is our principle wicket-taker. We wouldn't have done things very differently. We weren't too distraught at half-time."
Their chase, dented by wickets, is what Porterfield thinks should have gone better. "Throughout the tournament, we formed a few good partnerships but we never backed up one partnership with a second." Their highest partnership against South Africa was 41 runs, between Kevin O'Brien and Gary Wilson, but they have had two century partnerships, against England and India, in the tournament.
Porterfield was a proud man despite the weaknesses his side displayed. He felt his team had played with a lot of heart and that they will benefit from the experience as a whole. "The more we play against [big] teams, the more we are learning as a unit. We are going to take a lot out of this tournament."
Their last match, on Friday against the Netherlands, will be their last hurrah, for this World Cup and possibly for a long time, as the fifty-over tournament will become smaller from the next edition. That match, which is all about playing for pride, will have a much deeper context to it, because the two teams that meet may disappear from the ODI stage for an indefinite period. "It's not going to be difficult to get the guys up for it," Porterfield said. "It's probably the first match we are going into as favourites."