With the 2019 edition of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup set to begin on May 30, we look back at the most memorable moments from the tournament’s four-decade-long history. You can read the entire series here.
Moment No 7
There were a few distinct and proverbial colours on that March night in Bangalore.
It wasn’t St Patrick’s Day yet but the Irish green was scattered in the stands with a handful of loyal supporters.
A pink-haired (or was it purple?) firecracker called Kevin O’Brien was on the field.
Golden was his touch, as anything his bat touched found the gaps; the tricky edges, the full-blooded heaves, the cracking drives.
And red was the colour of England as they fell to their first – and to date only – defeat against Ireland on March 2, 2011.
It was a historic day for not only Irish cricket but also the World Cup and international cricket as a whole.
Ireland’s sensational three-wicket victory over England was not about a “minnow” defeating an established team; that had been seen in World Cups before after all.
It was not even about the geographic rivalry the two countries share in sports like rugby. This was not a territorial battle that carried the intensity of the Trans-Tasman clash or the weight of India vs Pakistan. The two teams were nowhere close to equal footing to have any sort of rivalry.
It wasn’t even completely about Kevin O’Brien’s record-breaking century – the fastest in a World Cup – although that ballistic 63-ball 113 is a large part of what made this moment iconic.
But what made Ireland’s triumph truly extraordinary was the manner of victory. It was not a straightforward win; this upset had all the makings of a classic even without the underdog status of one team.
If this match was played between two top teams, it would still be a memorable win because it was a heist in plain light, a sequence of events so unexpected and enthralling, it can only be called ‘a miracle of sport’.
The match that was
Buoyed by fifties from Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, England posted an imposing 327/8, a solid score even today. Ireland were a spunky side, but a successful chase of 328 against a team that had Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Graeme Swann was not a likely outcome.
Yes, Ireland had stunned Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup and were among the most experienced of the Associate nations then. But this was England who had recently won the Ashes in Australia weeks ago. This was the team that had chased down a score of 338 for a tie against eventual champions India just two days ago.
And in all honesty, Ireland didn’t make it easy on them. On the first ball of the innings, captain William Porterfield was bowled by Anderson. This could have, and should have, been the tone of the match. But by the time Anderson bowled the final ball of the match, the situation had changed drastically.
In what was already a David vs Golaith contest, it felt like David’s slingshot was also taken away when Ireland had slumped to 111/5 in the 25th over.
Two overs before, No 6 Kevin O’Brien walked in at 106/4 with his head hair dyed for a charity. According to his brother Niall, the wicket-keeper and star of Ireland’s win over Pakistan at the last World Cup, Kevin came in with a look in his eye that basically meant murder.
“In the field he was grumpy, he was moping around... when he’s like that, he tends to kinda take the bull by the horns as it were... I don’t know why he was grumpy, I think he just slept badly or something, he had misfielded few balls, he hurt his knee and I just knew, that he had that kind of look in his eye,” he told ESPNcricinfo.
And he did mean it. With the bat, he was on a different planet that way. Perhaps it was the luck of the Irish – he did admit he was lucky several times that day – or perhaps it was something else altogether, that spark of supernatural that makes sport the spectacle it is.
The 26-year-old started his attack soon as he came. Even with half the team in the hut, he didn’t choose caution or to prolong the innings.
With 20 overs to go, they needed 162 to win. That’s when the batsmen decided to opt for the Batting Powerplay and that’s when the carnage began. With 62 runs smashed in five overs, the target that had looked impossible was now attainable.
But he wasn’t alone. He had Alex Cusack (47 off 58) for company, who dug in and played the perfect foil to the rampage at the other end. When he was dismissed after a sixth-wicket partnership of 162 and with 55 still to get, John Mooney (33 off 30) came to crease and continued from where Cusack left off.
O’Brien himself was out in the penultimate over, with only 11 to get, run out trying to get a second run. But Ireland didn’t give in. They won with five balls to spare when Mooney hit Anderson for a boundary.
Ireland hasn’t beaten England in an ODI since. But the win they got eight years back, was one for the ages.