England v Ireland, Super Eights, Guyana March 30, 2007

Johnston wants a lift but enjoys the party



Trent Johnston said the fact England had to bring Andrew Flintoff back at the death was a credit to Ireland © Getty Images

Twenty-five percent more from his team, and this game might just have gone the other way, suggested Trent Johnston after what might be called Ireland's impressive loss against England at Guyana's National Stadium.

"I'm very proud but probably disappointed," he said. "If the way we played against Pakistan, the way we played against Canada or South Africa in the warm-ups we may have got close. It's just another learning curve for us, we've got another five games hopefully we can improve on that and if we do I'll be very happy. We've got to go out there and lift it by another 25%."

At 23 for 2 and again at 113 for 4, the Irish were in with a chance to keep England down to a manageable score. But sloppy fielding and weak bowling at the close, weakened further by the absence of Boyd Rankin because of cramp, made the ultimate difference.

"The way we played in the first 40 overs was outstanding," said Johnston. "On that wicket, the quality of batsmen we were bowling to ... they probably got 90-odd in the last ten overs that swung the momentum back in their favour. While batting we got sort of stuck in the middle as we have been recently with spinners. You had Flintoff coming back at the end that was very difficult."

That exceptional last spell from Flintoff, three wickets in 2.1 overs, might have snuffed out any last Irish hopes, but Johnston regarded it a testament to his team's performance. "It's a credit to us that Michael Vaughan had to bring Andrew Flintoff back at the tail," he said. "I don't know if he's 100% fit, he certainly doesn't look to me, but for him to come back and bowl that spell, that's what won them the game in the end."

Paul Collingwood's fine innings came in for praise but "he'll be the first to admit there were a few balls he didn't hit in the middle but they still went for sixes," Johnston said. "We discussed Collingwood in our team meeting, he is the quality player in the team, he's the guy who gets you the run-a-ball hundred. Today we were off by a few inches to him and the result was nine runs an over."

It was another low turnout day at the Super Eights, but still about ten times the crowd Irish cricket team is used to. "We usually play in front of a couple of hundred," Johnston said. "Look, we can't complain about support. We had about 1000 Irish fans in Jamaica sounded like 10,000. They were the ones who got us to this stage.

"Hopefully they'll be very proud of what the guys have been doing. We're probably 25-30% short of our best and we need to lift. All me and [coach] Adrian [Birrell] are telling the boys is to enjoy, these are the best days of your life."

Rahul Bhattacharya is contributing editor of Cricinfo Magazine and author of Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India, 2003-04