Plays of St Patrick's Day

Elvis lives and Ireland plan a long Caribbean stay

Dileep Premachandran

March 17, 2007

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Is Trent Johnston's catch to remove Kamran Akmal the best at any World Cup? © AFP
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Elvis thrusts on As the Pakistani wickets started to tumble, Elvis was in attendance at Sabina Park. Or at least, a couple of impersonators were, trailing behind the lively leprechaun in a celebratory conga. They may not be the best team in the world, but Ireland undoubtedly have the best fans, a refreshing change from the subcontinental types who pelt stones at cricketers' houses after a loss.

Are you McGrath in disguise? Come to think of it, not even old Glenn managed figures of 8-4-5-2 in a World Cup game. Andrè Botha came on when Ireland were losing the plot with wide after wide, and his tremendous accuracy triggered the collapse. When he was playing for the humble Griquas, little could he have imagined that he'd take the wicket of Inzamam-ul-Haq in such a big game.

Captain Commitment Kamran Akmal had cut and driven his way to 27 to prompt thoughts of recovery when he miscued a short ball from Boyd Rankin. Trent Johnston, a big man, turned and set off from mid-on. Looking over his shoulder at the ball, Johnston threw himself full length to grab on to perhaps the greatest catch seen in the competition's history. Martin Crowe's incredible effort to dismiss Dave Houghton in 1987 takes some beating, but this was certainly in that class. The wallop to finish the game wasn't too shabby either.

What a beaut Dave Langford-Smith set the tone for a thrilling morning with a beautiful delivery to Mohammad Hafeez. Earlier in the over, Niall O'Brien, the keeper, had popped across to tell him to shorten his length a little. Langford-Smith did so, and got one to rear up off a good length at Hafeez, whose hesitant prod only found the edge. Some delivery, and even better team work.

Rankin power A Rankin engine utilises excess heat, and with the sun on his back, Boyd steamed in for a telling second spell. Azhar Mahmood looped one to midwicket, Akmal miscued his pull, and suddenly Johnston looked like Mike Brearley for bringing about the change. As for Rankin, he puffed his way to figures of 3 for 32, not too bad for a man who looks like he could partner Paul O'Connell in the Irish scrum.

Fetch that At 15 for 2, visions of an improbable upset were being clouded by the reality that Pakistan possessed a potent pace attack. But O'Brien was in no mood to let the opportunity slip, and when Umar Gul pitched one up, he unveiled a peachy off-drive that breathed new life into the Irish effort.

Staring at the sun? Brian Jerling had a shocking day. When William Porterfield was struck on the toe palpably in front, he indicated a run, and later Botha was given out caught when the ball had thudded into the pad with the bat nowhere in sight.

Going down, down, down Throughout the day, the Pakistani fans were comfortably eclipsed by the boisterous Irish contingent. Dismayed at their team's ineptitude, they reserved their biggest cheer of the day for the news coming in from Queen's Park Oval, where Bangladesh had beaten India. Ah well, at least both sets of fans will be too depressed tonight to have a go at each other.

Seen and heard India's dismal defeat in Trinidad sent the Indian contingent here into a tizzy. Most TV stations are likely to recall their crew in the event that India don't make the Super Eights, and with Pakistan also heading out, there were hushed whispers about how interest on the subcontinent would fade with more than five weeks left for the final. Try telling that to the jubilant Bangladeshis.

All roads lead to Ocho Rios They would have partied anyway, it being St Patrick's Day, but the surreal events on the field meant that the party planned for the northern coastal resort of Ocho Rios will be a swinging one indeed. We're not sure how well stocked the bars are, but reinforcements might be needed to slake the thirst of a bunch who can now look forward to four more weeks in the Caribbean sunshine.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo

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Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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