As the sporting world takes a break in the middle of a global pandemic, sports lovers are finding other ways to pursue their passion; reliving classic matches, hypothesising about makeshift season details and constructing hypothetical line-ups.
On the 11-16th of May 2018, Ireland completed their journey to Test cricket, one that officially started in 1993 when they became an Associate Member of the ICC.
Unofficially it began in 2006 with the appointment of Warren Deutrom to CEO. When William Porterfield led 11 proud Irishmen onto the field, they had fulfilled a dream that so many years ago seemed impossible.
In 1901 the Gaelic Athletic Association placed a ban on playing cricket. The ban lasted into the 1970s, and even after it was unbanned the shame still remained. Ireland Test Player No.2 Ed Joyce was so ashamed of playing cricket in the 1980s and 90s that he hid his bat while he was travelling on the train in Dublin.
He was just one of many young talented Irishmen who risked being ostracised for playing an English game.
Joyce himself was the man to put Ireland’s young talent as it was back in 2001 on the County stage. He scored his maiden century for Middlesex at the Home of Cricket, Lord’s. This was a time when Cricket Ireland couldn’t afford to pay their players proper wages, allowing them to play County Cricket.
The staff behind Ireland’s rise cannot be overlooked as well. Warren Deutrom has been the driver, continually steering Ireland in the right direction. His steely resolve and single mindedness was what released the shackles on Cricket in Ireland. But before Deutrom there was a set of fantastic coaches leading the way.
Ireland’s first full time coach Mike Hendrick was the man who oversaw the country’s first ever win against a County team in 1997. Phil Simmons coached Ireland for eight years, he taught them how to dominate on the Associate level. In partnership with Deutrom, they both lead Ireland to where they are now.
When Ireland qualified for the 2007 ICC World Cup in the West Indies, they did not have an official ODI ranking, putting them as outsiders to continue through to the super 8s. Ireland were put in a tough group D containing the West Indies, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, all three were Test-playing nations. But against all odds they went through in second place. They tied to Zimbabwe, defeated Pakistan and lost to the West Indies.
They then continued on to the super 8s and to be quite frank, got thrashed. They only won a solitary match against Bangladesh by 74 runs.
Ireland had a solid showing at the 2011 World Cup considering Group B contained South Africa, India (Eventual winners), England and the West Indies. They finished in sixth out of seven for the group, but their two wins showed some signs of brilliance. They beat the Netherlands when they were chasing 306, which some might say is just as well because some might say that the Netherland’s aren’t good enough enough to get 300.
Against their Arch-nemesis England they pulled out one of the greatest games in World Cup history. After England set 327, an unlikely target against the might of England’s bowling attack, Ireland lost their captain, Will Porterfield from the very first ball. Ireland looked doomed and indeed made everyone feel that way by struggling along to 5/111. Then Kevin O’Brien came to the crease.
The same man who has just scored a century on Debut, not only on his debut, but Ireland’s as well. He then proceeded to smash 100 of a paltry 50 balls, the fastest century in World Cup history. Ireland then chased down the 327 set by neighbours England, winning by three wickets. It was the largest successful run chase in Cricket World Cup history.
After this, Ireland maintained a continued level of success in Associate Cricket and in ODI cricket, rising occasionally to pull of an underdog win. Amongst some consistent First Class form from key players such as Ed Joyce (18461 at 47.95 of 255 Matches), William Potterfield (6263 at 30.4 of 128 Matches), Tim Murtagh (718 wickets at 26.43) and Boyd Rankin (347 wickets at 26.52) made Ireland a key nation during the Intercontinental Cup.
Ireland showed that they could play competitive First Class Cricket during the Intercontinental Cup. Ireland finished second winning five drawing one and losing one Ed Joyce played a key part as Ireland’s leading run scoring coming in at second overall with 700 runs at 70.
William Porterfield finished the chart in fifth with 586 runs at 48.53. Tim Murtagh led with the ball for Ireland coming fourth with 26 at 16.96. In 2017 Ireland were awarded Test Status along with the eventual champions, Afghanistan.
Ireland having completed their first Test match, showed what class they were and how they have the goods to be a solid Test nation. Murtagh was denied a 5-fa on debut by Pakistan’s declaration, which I was disappointed with. Then they had the critics chattering when they collapsed in spectacular fashion to be 4/7 at lunch.
They did manage to fight to 130 thanks to Kevin O’Brien. The follow on showed a much better Ireland, an Ireland who knew what needed to be done. A solid opening stand, a fantastic century by Kevin O’Brien and a 50 from Stuart Thompson gave them an outside chance for a win against Pakistan. Indeed the fairy tail seemed on the books with Pakistan at 3/14, but the win didn’t eventuate with Pakistan at 5/160.
Proven they are, and we must now ask, under the leadership of Warren Deutrom, where to next?