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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 March 2007, 23:52 GMT
The day the minnows bit back
By Paresh Soni
BBC Sport, Kingston

The problem with the World Cup, the critics said, was there were likely to be too many one-sided and meaningless matches at the start of the tournament.

Why on earth should teams like Ireland be here? Heck, why not kick out Bangladesh, too, they're not likely to trouble the big boys are they?

Kevin O'Brien
Another big wicket for Ireland in their amazing win over Pakistan

Develop the game in other parts of the world? Forget that, these hapless minnows can play among themselves and we'll just give them some cash from time to time to help them along.

Really, let's just get down to the serious business with the best teams like Australia, South Africa, India and Pakistan in the Super Eight stage.

Well, here's news for the critics: Pakistan are out and there's a very good chance India will also be heading home early.

Indeed, rather than predictable, this is fast becoming the "I was there when Ireland" show.

As in I was there when the World Cup novices snatched a remarkable tie against Zimbabwe and I was there when they humbled Pakistan to record one of the greatest upsets in the competition's history.

Add it to Sri Lanka v India (1979), Zimbabwe v Australia (1983), Kenya v West Indies (1996), Bangladesh v Pakistan (1999) Kenya v Sri Lanka (2003) and Canada v Bangladesh (2003) and David v Goliath (11th century BC) among the triumphs of the underdog.

Like all of those surprise conquests, this was not supposed to happen. If Michael Holding had his way, there would never have been a chance.

The legendary former West Indies paceman wants to see only the winners of the qualifying tournament going through to the finals, which would have limited entry this time to Scotland.

Secondly, this was a team of mainly part-time Irish cricketers against an inconsistent but talented Pakistan outfit under the tutelage of respected coach Bob Woolmer.

Then the pitch - yes it had plenty of green tinges to it, and it was a good toss to win.

But Woolmer's men had three of the finest batsmen in the world in Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq in their team.

Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Ashraful
Bangladesh's Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Ashraful celebrate

However, they and their colleagues were no match for the likes of Dave Langford-Smith, Boyd Rankin and Andre Botha - who returned a quite astounding 2-5 off eight overs.

Even after all that, and even allowing for the fact that Pakistan were missing star bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, 133 was no straightforward task for the Irish.

It looked a long way away when Mohammad Sami, bowling as quick as anything we've seen so far in the Caribbean, nipped out Jeremy Bray and Eoin Morgan.

A shocking decision from umpire Brian Jerling to give Botha out caught off his pad and three quick wickets after a rain delay appeared to have cost Ireland their moment of glory despite keeper Niall O'Brien's superb 72.

In fact, his was the only innings of statistical substance, but does it matter?

Ireland hung on to begin a party that is likely to last until 23 March when they play their final group game against West Indies.

By then they should have already qualified for the next phase, where they could be joined by Bangladesh, after their stunning victory over India in Port-of-Spain.

Of course there is a long way to go in Group B and it could all go horribly wrong for the Tigers.

But I can already feel the panic among the marketing men and television executives at the prospect of India and Pakistan both missing out.

Yes, Bangladesh have won only five of their 95 one-day internationals against the top eight-ranked nations and there have been plenty of damaging defeats.

But against an Indian team touted as eventual winners they showed consistent exposure against the best players will eventually reap rewards on the biggest stage.

So while Bermuda, Canada and the Netherlands suffer now, should that be a concern when years down the line they could be enjoying the kind of day Ireland's phenomenal fans enjoyed here at Sabina Park

SEE ALSO
Ireland quotes
17 Mar 07 |  Cricket
Spirited Bangladesh upset India
17 Mar 07 |  Cricket
Bashar focused on qualification
17 Mar 07 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2007 schedule
20 Jul 05 |  Cricket
Your Cricket World Cup photos
07 Mar 07 |  Cricket
BBC World Cup coverage
21 Feb 07 |  Cricket


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