(This is a weekly-ish cricket column that will run for the duration of the World Cup. And don’t worry; it won’t be too heavy as I don’t know enough to fool those people who do)
It’s probably fair to say that the Cricket World Cup, currently taking place in Australia and New Zealand, has gotten lost in the whirlwind of sport that February brings; Six Nations rugby, the National Football and Hurling leagues, the omnipresent Premier League and soon to reignite Champions League. Nonetheless, Ireland’s victory yesterday against a West Indies team, admittedly in disarray, will hopefully pique the interest of the nation once more.
Ireland sent shockwaves throughout the world of cricket with a thrilling defeat of Pakistan in the 2007 Caribbean World Cup and also went on to defeat Bangladesh in that same tournament, their exploits garnering them plenty of plaudits, and heretofore unseen levels of media coverage in this country.
When the 2011 World Cup in India rolled around it was thought that the stubborn Irish wouldn’t catch a full member nation on the hop again; Ireland are an associate member, like a League One club to the premiership giants of England and Australia; but England were more than willing to oblige. Ireland chased down a World Cup record total of 328, thanks largely to Kevin O’Brien’s incredible, match winning 113 runs off 63 balls, reminding anyone who cared to listen that 2007 was no fluke. The Irish progressed no further but this time not only had they won hearts, they had also won respect. No longer a fly in the ointment but a full on, pain in the ass.
However, this time around Ireland’s pre- tournament form has been patchy. While their last warm up game against Bangladesh ended up in a very welcome victory, Ireland had, just days before suffered a demoralising 179 run defeat to fellow Associate member Scotland. Nonetheless, led by their composed coach, Phil Simmons, himself a former West Indian batman, they approached yesterday’s game against the West Indies, two time World Cup winners themselves, armed with expectation, rather than hope, of an opening victory. Despite some sloppy bowling at the death and a mini case of the jitters towards the end of their innings, Ireland cruised to victory. Former English spin bowler and three time Ashes winner, Graeme Swann seemed mightily impressed with the Irish, stating that Ireland’s Group B rivals would be “very nervous” after the manner and nature of yesterday’s victory. Unlike in 2011, Ireland were able to rely on balanced contributions throughout the team, predominantly with the bat but also early on with the ball.
Ireland’s remaining games are against United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe, which are both games they’d expect to win, particularly the former; and the big boys, South Africa, Pakistan and India. Four go through and certainly after the exploits of 2007 and 2011, and particularly yesterday, Ireland won’t be handing over their lunch money without landing some decent blows. I definitely see them making the quarter finals, particularly if star batsmen Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce pick up from where they left off yesterday, and young spinner George Dockrell can lead the troop of hugely committed, if sometimes erratic bowlers.
In other news, England got decimated by Australia on Saturday, for what seems like the twentieth time in a year, losing by 111 runs. For those who didn’t know England are captained by Irishman Eoin Morgan. Morgan didn’t even bother the scorekeepers in Melbourne, meaning he has a grand total of 0 runs in his last three innings against Australia and is clearly suffering from a very real crisis of confidence. Or, this is the greatest ever sabotage of English sport!
A few terms to get you by during the Cricket World Cup:
- Boundary –Six runs if the batsman sends the ball clear of the rope without bouncing and four if it hits the grass first before leaving the oval.
- Crease – A series of white lines on the field of play which help determine legal play in different ways for the fielding and batting side.
- Duck – A score of 0 by a batsman.
- Golden Duck – A batsman getting bowled for 0 with the first ball they face.
- On-side: The left hand side of the pitch for a right handed batsman or the right hand side of the pitch for a left handed batsman.
- Off-side: Easiest way to put this is the opposite to the on-side.
- LBW – A method to get a batsman out where the ball hits their leg pad before the wicket, where, without the interference of his leg the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps.
- Sledging – Verbal confrontation, invariably involving an Australian, usually deployed to get inside the head of opposition batsmen.
The following recounts a famous exchange between South African Daryl Cullinan and Australian great Shane Warne:
Warne, a sledging maestro and never the slimmest player on the pitch, always had a bit of a stranglehold over Cullinan, so, not having faced each other in a while, Warne couldn’t resist heckling him: “I’ve been waiting two years for another chance to humiliate you in front of your home crowd“. Cullinan, for once, got him back with a ripper: “Looks like you spent it eating…”
- Bouncer – A ball bowled with the intention of forcing a batsman who has come froward, onto their back foot, rising sharply to chest or head height. The response to the bouncer depends on the quality of the batsmen; duck, defend or attack
- Wide – The ball must be bowled at a certain height and within a certain line. Anything outside this is a run to the batting team and the ball must be bowled again.
- Yorker – A ball traditionally bowled at the end of the one-day match. A well bowled yorker will confuse the batsman with its trajectory. A bad one is probably getting dispatched for a boundary.
- Duckworth Lewis Method: Don’t even bother!
Cricket World Cup 2015 – Players to watch:
AB de Villiers (South Africa) Batsman/Wicketkeeper
Scored the fastest century in one day cricket history only three weeks ago against the West Indies. Arguably the most dominant cricketer in the world right now.
Kane Williamson (New Zealand) Batsman
Precocious talent who, along with powerful captain Brendon McCullum, will be looked upon to provide the spark in a New Zealand team that really fancy their chances, particularly on home soil.
Steve Smith (Australia) Batsman
A toss up between him and de Villiers as to who is the form batsman in world cricket right now. Check out his breathtaking catch in Australia’s opening game against England last weekend, confirmation that he is far from just a batsman.
Mitchell Johnson (Australia) Bowler
Famously inconsistent in years gone by, Johnson destroyed England’s batting line up in last year’s Ashes series. His captain, Michael Clarke, infamously warned England tail ender James Anderson to “get ready to have your f**king arm broken” as Johnson made hay against the beleaguered English in Brisbane in 2013.
If you fancy a little punt to make your cricket experience more interesting here are my tournament selections below:
New Zealand Outright -4/1
AB de Villiers to be South Africa’s leading run scorer – 4/1
Chris Gayle to be West Indies leading run scorer – 4/1
Ireland to be eliminated in Quarter Finals – 9/5