IRELAND intend to take their giant-killing knack to the next stage at the World Cup, by qualifying for the knockout rounds in New Zealand and Australia.
William Porterfield’s team extended their winning habit against Test-playing nations when they began their campaign with a four-wicket Pool B victory over West Indies in Nelson yesterday.
They were continuing the trend they have set at previous World Cups, memorably against England at Bangalore in 2011 and Pakistan in the Caribbean four years earlier.
This time, on a small playing area and very good pitch, they restricted the Windies to 304 for seven – despite Lendl Simmons’ 102 and his sixth-wicket stand of 154 with Darren Sammy (89) – with left-arm spinner George Dockrell taking three for 50.
Then the men in green always appeared on course for a successful chase and, even with a minor late wobble, got the job done with more than four overs to spare thanks principally to Paul Stirling (92), Ed Joyce (84) and Niall O’Brien (79no).
O’Brien, whose brother Kevin was the hero of that famous success against England, was delighted to have come good at the right time - and is predicting further progress over the next month too.
He said: “I was due a few runs. I owed the boys a few, so I’m thrilled to bits.
“It’s a fantastic result, from all the lads. We played out of our skins and deserved to win.”
Ireland’s expert chase shocked the Windies, and doubtless many others, but not O’Brien and his team-mates.
“From our point of view, it wasn’t really an upset,” he added.
“We went into the game this morning thinking we could and should win the game ... and we’ve been proved right.”
Ireland will have ample time to celebrate before their next fixture against the United Arab Emirates in Brisbane on 25 February.
That, along with Zimbabwe, is one for which they will start definite favourites – and both O’Brien and Porterfield are optimistic.
“This win obviously gives us a lot of confidence ... potentially we could be going into a game against India with six points out of eight,” said O’Brien.
“It’s early days, and we won’t be getting carried away. But we’re absolutely over the moon and delighted with the start.”
Porterfield is revelling in the moment, too, but already starting to plot a route into the quarter-finals. “It’s fantastic,” said the captain. “The way we went about chasing down those runs was great. It sets us up for the next three games. It’s a great position to be in.
“We firmly believe what we are capable of. We’ve just got to continue this throughout the tournament.
“They obviously had a strong finish, but 300 was about a par score. The belief is that we can qualify from the group stage.” West Indies’ fragile confidence, by contrast, has taken another knock.
Their young captain Jason Holder said: “That was a tough loss. We tried to get wickets today but we just didn’t get them. I think we need to be a little more precise. We’re leaking too many runs at the start of the innings. We need to tighten up.” Their first opportunity to put things right will come on Friday in Christchurch against Pakistan, who have also already lost their opening match –by 76 runs to arch-rivals India in Adelaide on Sunday.
Meanwhile, all-rounders John Mooney and Darren Sammy both admitted Level 1 offences for swearing audibly during yesterday’s game, and were fined 30 per cent of their match fees. Mooney lost his temper when a catch was put down by one of his Irish team-mates, and former Windies captain Sammy voiced his irritation while batting. Both players accepted the sanction. All Level 1 breaches carry a minimum penalty of an official reprimand and a maximum penalty of a 50 per cent match fee.
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