Ireland-Pakistan Test revives World Cup memories

Ireland's William Porterfield, left, and Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed pose with the trophy after the press conference at Malahide Cricket Club, Malahide, Ireland on May 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Ireland-Pakistan Test revives World Cup memories

  • Ireland knocked Pakistan out of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean with a stunning three-wicket win in Jamaica
  • Ireland will not be a part of next year's World Cup after missing out in a 10-team qualifying tournament where only Afghanistan and the West Indies made it through to the finals

DUBLIN: Ireland will be huge underdogs when they face Pakistan in their inaugural men's Test match at Malahide on Friday.
But several members of their squad already know what it's like to cause a huge upset against Pakistan, having played in the Ireland side that knocked the Asian giants out of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean with a stunning three-wicket win in Jamaica.
It was the stuff of fairytales with Ireland, a team of part-timers containing school teachers, farmers and postmen defeating the Asian giants -- and on St Patrick's Day as well.
One of the few green-tinged pitches in the West Indies, and thereby reminiscent of surfaces at home in Ireland, was matched by fans wearing Irish green shirts in a jubilant crowd at Kingston's Sabina Park.
The fairytale soon became a nightmare, however, when Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, the former England batsman who in his previous development role with the International Cricket Council had done much to raise the standard of non-Test nations, was found dead in his hotel room the next morning.
Ireland dismissed Pakistan for a meagre 132 with fast bowler Boyd Rankin -- set to be involved in the Test -- taking three wickets.
Ireland were soon 15 for two before an innings of 72 from Niall O'Brien, also in the Test squad, got them back on track before now-retired captain Trent Johnston won the match with a six off Azhar Mahmood.
"It was the start of something special," Johnston told The42.ie website. "The start of an amazing journey and a day when the rest of the world sat up and took notice of us as a cricketing nation."
Ireland's victory came just 48 hours after they had exceeded many people's expectations by playing out a tie with another Test side in Zimbabwe.
"I was lucky I won that toss," said Johnston, who was also rightly proud of the "bloody good cricket," Ireland played against Pakistan.
"We were a bunch of amateurs going to a World Cup and we had absolutely nothing to lose," he added.
Irish joy was quickly tempered by widespread mourning for Woolmer, whose sudden death gave rise to a host of wild conspiracy theories.
Although no one knew it at the time, Ireland's win perversely damaged the cause of aspiring cricket nations.
Pakistan and arch-rivals India were both knocked out in the first round, a huge blow to organisers banking on their fans to pack out grounds later on, as well as broadcasters who had paid heavily for television rights in the subcontinent.
The ICC, as much a club for its leading members as a global governing body, soon decided a repeat had to be avoided at all costs.
That outlook has led to next year's World Cup in England being shrunk to a 10-team event, with an all-play-all group stage.
Ireland, however, will not be there after missing out in a 10-team qualifying tournament where only Afghanistan and the West Indies made it through to the finals.


Shane Lowry wins Open Championship, as Englishman Tommy Fleetwood rues missed chances

Updated 42 min 7 sec ago
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Shane Lowry wins Open Championship, as Englishman Tommy Fleetwood rues missed chances

  • The silver claret jug is staying on the Emerald Isle
  • Tommy Fleetwood found it hard to take solace in his second-place finish at the Open

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland: Shane Lowry made the 68 years between Open Championships in Northern Ireland worth the wait.
The silver claret jug is staying on the Emerald Isle.
Lowry, the 32-year-old Irishman with stout nerves and a soft touch around the greens, endured the worst weather of the week and the Sunday pressure of a sellout crowd cheering him along to win the Open by six shots at Royal Portrush.
Even as the rain stopped, the tears began flowing.
“I can’t believe this is me standing here,” Lowry said as he cradled golf’s oldest trophy. “I can’t believe this is mine.”
It was never really in doubt.
Lowry closed with a 1-over 72, the first time since 1996 the Open champion was over par in the final round, and it was no less impressive. More difficult than the rain was wind strong enough to break an umbrella. Lowry began making bogeys in the middle of the round without losing ground. No one from the last 12 groups broke par.
And no one got closer than three shots all day of Lowry, who finished at 15-under 269.
Tommy Fleetwood found it hard to take solace in his second-place finish at the Open as he failed to reel in Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush on Sunday.
The Englishman finished six shots behind Lowry after shooting a three-over par round of 74 in horrendous weather conditions.
But he was left to rue a series of missed chances early on to put pressure on the Irishman.
“If I could pick one event it would be The Open. It’s my dream, and it always will be and you’re teeing off in the last group on Sunday with a very, very good chance,” said Fleetwood.
“It feels a lot rougher finishing when you feel like you’ve come so close to what you’ve dreamt as a kid.”
Fleetwood was still in the hunt at four shots back with six to play, but a double bogey at the 14th realistically ended his challenge.
“Them first few holes, when you start four back are pretty crucial. I didn’t do a good enough job of sort of pressing at that point,” he added.
“Struggled in the middle and four back with six to go and still in it, but 14 was a killer blow.”
American Tony Finau was the only player in the final 10 groups to not finish over par for the day as howling wind and heavy rain made low scoring nearly impossible.
But Fleetwood paid tribute to Lowry’s ability to handle the conditions and the tension to win his first major title with a 72 to finish 15-under par.
“When we got on to eight, nine, 10, just shocking, shocking weather. It was really, really difficult. I made a par on nine that felt like a birdie,” added Fleetwood.
“It was just tough. I think everybody would have got to a point and start going backwards.
“When the winds are like that on a links course, it plays hard, that’s just the way it is. You’ve got to do your bit.
“I think that makes Shane’s round of one-over even more impressive, controlling the day like he did.”

(With AFP and AP)