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 5
The Cricket World Cup is no stranger to feel-good underdog stories. The 1983 fairytale of India, the 1996 victory for Sri Lanka, the 2003 semi-final finish for Kenya, the runner-up finish by New Zealand in 2015: these immediately pop into our minds.
One other win *should* always feature in this list but it is often remembered for the wrong reasons is Ireland’s win over Pakistan in 2007: a forgettable World Cup edition for many a reason.
It should not have been the case. Any other sport, you would have probably embraced a World Cup debutant stunning a previous World Champion. But cricket, in years to come, saw that result as a threat to their commercial interests. Without realising what they had done, Ireland made life more difficult for themselves to succeed at the highest level by eliminating Pakistan and entering the Super Eight stage of 2007 World Cup.
And that’s not even half of the incredible day that was in the Caribbean in March 2007.
Painting Kingston green
From a cricketing point of view, it was the stuff of dreams with Ireland, a team of part-timers containing school teachers, farmers and postmen defeating the Asian giants – and on St Patrick’s Day as well. A day of celebration became a day of making history.
One of the few green-tinged pitches in the West Indies, and thereby reminiscent of surfaces at home in Ireland, was matched by fans wearing Irish green shirts in a jubilant crowd at Kingston’s Sabina Park.
Ireland dismissed Pakistan for a meagre 132 with fast bowler Boyd Rankin taking three wickets. There was sensational catching too, with Johnston leading from the front. Current England captain Eoin Morgan took a couple of sharp catches too. The pitch did play a role but Ireland were rewarded for an excellent team effort.
In the run-chase, Ireland were soon 15 for two before an innings of 72 from Niall O’Brien got them back on track. Every shot he played was met with raucous cheers from the Irish crowd who were in party mode throughout the match. Pakistan, then, threatened to pull off a stunning comeback with a late flurry of wickets. The partying was now mixed with scenes of Irish fans biting their finger nails and covering their faces, unable to watch the action unfold in all the tension.
And then their captain Trent Johnston stepped up and won the match with a six off Azhar Mahmood. He leapt in joy, punching his gloves in the air as a jubilant Irish team rushed to the pitch.
It was the start of something special,” Johnston told The42.ie website. “The start of an amazing journey and a day when the rest of the world sat up and took notice of us as a cricketing nation.
“We were a bunch of amateurs going to a World Cup and we had absolutely nothing to lose,” he added.
The fairytale soon became a nightmare, however, when Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, the former England batsman who in his previous development role with the International Cricket Council had done much to raise the standard of non-Test nations, was found dead in his hotel room the next morning.
Word started spreading about possible mafia involvement in an alleged murder and after a long drawn, controversial investigation it was established that Woolmer had died of natural causes.
In the aftermath of the result, Inzamam-ul-Haq announced his resignation from captaincy as well. The fans were furious back home in Pakistan — something India can relate to as well.
But that day, before all the controversies unfolded, belonged solely to Ireland players and their fans who had the time of their lives. Ireland coach Adrian Birrell put it perfectly when he said, “Our fielding is excellent, we have a long batting line-up and the bowling’s very good when we get it right. But if you ask me what our greatest strength is, it’s the team spirit.”