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Bangalore turns green after night of Ireland's lives

Sriram Veera samples the atmosphere in the team hotel after Ireland's victory

Kevin O'Brien's girlfriend Ruth Ann Kilty, Vanessa Johnston and Gary Wilson's wife at the team hotel, England v Ireland, World Cup 2011, Bangalore, March 2, 2011

Ireland's jubilant wives and girlfriends join the celebrations in Bangalore  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

A short while after he hit the fastest ton in World Cup history, Kevin O'Brien texted his girlfriend Ruth Anne Kilty: "Where are you?" She was on her way to the team hotel. He was in the dressing room. It was their biggest night. As they say in Ireland, it was the night to get scuttered, to get stocious, to get drunk in delirious joy. In the hotel, Ruth couldn't wait to see her boyfriend. "I am an emotional wreck," she says with a big smile. "Kevin too is in a bit of shock."
It's her first overseas tour with Kevin. She has seen him play in Ireland but never outside. "He is a very laidback person off the field. He doesn't get stressed. He gets nervous before a game but not stressed. As he says, "Why do you need to get stressed when you are well prepared?"
Around her in the hotel lobby, there are Irish fans, in a state of delirium. Some don't even know the names of most players. Cricket is not a big sport back in Ireland. They are world travellers who landed up at the stadium because it was a game against England. Any sport against England was not to be missed. Any win against the old enemy was to be savoured.
"Kevin for Prime minister," they shout. "This is massive. We are good at sports like Rugby - The rugby grand slam and the European Cup victories are our biggest sporting achievement - but this win is sweeter because it has come in a sport where we are not traditionally strong. We are glad we travelled here to catch this great moment."
So is the charming Vanessa, Trent Johnston's wife puts the victory in perspective. "The win against Pakistan in the last World Cup was good but at the end of the day Pakistan played badly and we capitalised, whereas today to chase that score was just phenomenal. It was a world-class performance at a time when they are thinking of reducing the teams to 10 and keep out the Associates. For Trent, tonight was special as he became the first Irish bowler to get fifty wickets. He is 36, coming to end of his career, and he is Australian-born; so to beat the Poms means a bit more for him."
Vanessa is waiting for her husband to return so that they can speak to their 10-year old daughter Claudia and the seven-year old son Charlie. Vanessa says she has played a bit of cricket and adds, "I taught Trent everything that he knows in cricket! I want that on record, Cricinfo!" She and Ruth throw their heads back as they laugh. An IPL contract might not be far off for Kevin and the world might be at his feet now but he has to wait for one thing. "Surely now, after this great night, either Kevin or you will propose?!" Ruth turns coy, takes a step or two back, shakes her head, laughs and says, "No, no. Absolutely not."
Meanwhile, a Bollywood number "de dana dan" is belting out from the hotel speakers. Vanessa does a little jig as she spots a friend. Around 50 fans stream into the lobby. The England bus rolls in exactly at midnight. Andrew Strauss whispers something into the ears of Mushtaq Ahmed and smiles. Paul Collingwood, Graeme Swann, and Matt Prior are even sporting enough to sign a few autographs before they too troop past the fans and disappear into the elevator.
Twenty minutes later the Irish bus glides in, triggering huge cheers and cat whistles. The player's faces are priceless. Pride and exhilaration collide in glee. The eyes search for the loved ones, who are standing just beyond a glassed panel, in the inner part of the hotel. Phil Simmons, the coach, Porterfield and of course Kevin are first showered by arc lights and are roped to do interviews. Kevin is the last one to get in; a private moment of celebration ensues.
Soon, a small party starts behind closed doors at a banquet hall. Now and then, the door opens and you could hear songs and lot of laughter. Soon, the players, their wives and the fans, who have been invited, dance.
Foot-stomping. Beer Guzzling. Laughter. The Cinderellas of World Cricket might have been expected to return to sackcloth after midnight, but the party has only just begun.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo