The first round of Cricket World Cup 2022 was not short on drama and excitement and witnessed many wonderful moments. This competition will be etched in the history books of Irish cricket and would be remembered forever. They qualified for the second round by smashing two time World Cup champions West indies in their last game of round one. Ireland finished the group stage on high and won two out of their three games and went on to qualify in Group A of Super 12 round.
Ireland ended their 13 year drought with crushing victory and this sees Ireland make it past the First Round of a T20 World Cup for the first time since 2009. Since 2009, Ireland played five more times in this Marquee Event but could not past the first round for five consecutive times. Even the greatest of teams have faced shattering defeats and regrettable tournaments, only to bounce back from the tunnel of doom and gloom to reach the pinnacle. The captain Andy Balbirnie himself voiced after the win that they changed a lot of things after a disappointing loss last year and built on the lessons from those defeats to climb the ladder of success.
Not many expected Ireland to reach the Super 12 stage in the World Cup having been placed in group along side West Indies and Zimbabwe and now that they have, they can play with freedom since they have nothing to lose. Having the ability to spring surprises, Ireland’s main strength is that they always play with a ‘nothing to lose‘ attitude. In fact, they just might stand to gain a whole lot.
Ireland’s road to Super 12:
The first crucial match that Ireland played was against the Zimbabwe where Zimbabwe outclassed Ireland in all the three departments. Irish Captain Andy Balbirnie asked Zimbabwe to bat after winning the toss, they didn’t get off to an great start as they lost three wickets in the powerplay with the amazing display of bowling from Irish bowlers. In arrived Zimbabwe’s go-to guy Sikandar Raza, he took the bowlers by storm and stayed till the end to single handedly take his team to an above-par total of 174. He scored a fiery 82 from just 48 deliveries with five fours and same number of sixes. With the bat, Ireland also had a poor start and were reduce to 22/4 in the fourth over itself and just could not emerge from that. Ireland lower middle order batsmen did had some partnerships in between them and added some boundaries but that only delayed the inevitable and reduced the margin of defeat.
After losing the match against Zimbabwe, Ireland had a big task ahead of them to win their next two games against Scotland and two times World Champions West Indies.
Ireland then played their next match against Scotland. This was one of the most important encounters as another loss would have shown The Andy Balbirnie Men’s exit gates from the T20 World Cup. Scotland won the toss and opted to bat first. From then ,It was all about Scotland and Michael Jones until the magical innings from Curtis Campher. Jones scored 86 and became the highest scorer by an Associate team player in a World Cup. His 86 held the innings together and helped Scotland to reach massive total of 176. In reply, Scotland were cock-a-hoop and Ireland lost the top-order cheaply and were stuck at 61 for 4 in the 10th over, the chase looked dead and buried till that moment. And then Campher happened. Campher came in with renewed vigor and displayed his range of shots on all sides of the ground. He counter attacked and left the Scotland in disbelief. Ireland chased down the total with an over to spare, with Campher and Dockrell registering an unbeaten 119-run stand and kept their chances of qualification alive.
Ireland faced ‘favorites of group’ West indies in the last of their group stage matches. A total of 146 runs set by West Indies batsmen did not prove to be sufficient to register qualification in the second round. The Irish bowlers bowled stuck to their plans and the fielders backed it up in the field to restrict West Indies to a below par score on a pretty good batting track. Delany starred with a three-fer and all the other bowlers were economical as well. Ireland made mockery of that total and chased it with utmost ease and without any hassle with 15 balls to spare and 9 wickets remaining in their hand. It was the manner of victory that Andrew Balbirnie’s men registered that turned out to be really impressive and take them one level up in second round.
Andy Balbirnie, the Irish captain, said after the win, “Once we put ourselves in the super-12s, anything can happen. We can play three games here which can be great”. He was certain that his team had to overcome the disappointments of last editions of the tournament where despite good cricket, they could not qualify for the further rounds.
With the qualification to the next round this time, Ireland’s challenges will be one level up as well. In an environment where the associate nations are being constantly pushed to validate their eligibility for top ICC competitions, Ireland will be up against the task of proving their position at the highest level of the world T20 tournament against the World’s top teams.