It is now becoming apparent that the staging of an ICC Cricket World Cup would not be complete without the Ireland team creating an early shock result and their four wicket defeat of the West Indies team in a Pool B match should earn even more respect from the other six nations represented in that group.
Ireland had previously beaten England in the 2011 tournament by three wickets when Kevin O’Brien amassed 113 runs before being run out. That day in Bengaluru, England had compiled 327-8 in the second of the pool games before reducing the Irish team 111-5 and a seemingly comfortable victory. Yet a partnership of 162 for the sixth wicket between O’Brien and Alex Cusack helped to steer Ireland to an unlikely victory with Cusack providing the anchor role as O’Brien despatched the ball to all areas of the stadium.
O’Brien failed to score more than 19 in four subsequent innings during that tournament as the team finished second from bottom of the pool losing three of their four remaining games and only beating Netherlands. Nevertheless, the 2011 World Cup was considered a success for Irish cricket amid bold ambitions of achieving Full Membership of the ICC and vastly increasing the interest of cricket within Ireland.
Winning the 2011-13 ICC Intercontinental Cup was evidence that Ireland remain one of the better teams below test level and a nation definitely worth taking seriously, but it is the their performance in the current 2015 World Cup which will act as a test of any real progress, and a first match against West Indies did not disappoint.
West Indies had accumulated 304-7, which is not an insurmountable target for any first class team, and Ireland responded not by surpassing that total but by proving that they don’t just rely on Kevin O’Brien. There was more strength in the top order of the batting with Ed Joyce and Paul Stirling just failing to complete their centuries and O’Brien’s bother Niall ‘Paddy’ compiling 79 not out.
As for Kevin O’Brien, there were no batting heroics on this occasion as he was run out without scoring in the game staged in Nelson, New Zealand. For Ireland, this is just the beginning of an anticipated successful tournament and they next face minnows United Arab Emirates in Brisbane, with hope of leading the pool, before the difficult task of beating South Africa in Canberra awaits.
Whatever their fate in the remaining matches, Ireland have already served notice that they intend to compete on equal terms with the First Class nations in this tournament but proof of their abilities will be in building on their success against West Indies and challenging for a top four position Pool B, unlike in 2011 when that one victory appeared to be more of a fluke result.