Irish hopes intact as rain derails Test debut

Umpires inspect the pitch ahead of the first test cricket match between Ireland and Pakistan at The Village, Malahide, Ireland on May 11, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 May 2018
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Irish hopes intact as rain derails Test debut

  • There are records of cricket being played in Ireland as early as 1731
  • Ireland knocked Pakistan out of the 2007 one-day international World Cup tournament with a stunning St. Patrick’s Day win at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica

DUBLIN: When you’ve waited as long as Ireland have to play your first Test match, another day’s delay may not seem that significant.
Yet there was no denying the disappointment at a wet and windy Malahide ground in Dublin as rain meant play was abandoned without a ball bowled on Friday’s opening day of Ireland’s inaugural Test, against Pakistan.
By the time the umpires bowed to what had long made seem inevitable at 3:00pm local time (1400 GMT), there were just a few hardy souls at a ground where temporary stands had increased the capacity to 6,300, with 5,100 seats pre-sold for the day.
With cruel irony, no sooner had Richard Illingworth and Nigel Llong, the two English umpires, called off Friday’s proceedings then the sun broke through the grey skies, although so wet were conditions under foot that any prospect of Test cricket in Dublin on Friday had seemed forlorn from the moment the match failed to start on time at 11:00am (1000 GMT).
Yet there was also a sense it would take a lot more than howling wind and rain to dampen the pride felt within Irish cricket as their side stood on the brink of becoming just the 11th nation to play Test cricket.
That this match had captured the attention of an Irish public used to Gaelic sports, racing, rugby and football holding sway, could be seen from the fact that a preview of the match was the main item on Thursday’s evening television news bulletin on RTE, Ireland’s national state broadcaster.
It was all a far cry from the time when Ed Joyce, arguably the country’s greatest batsman and set to play in this match, was physically attacked as a boy just for carrying a cricket bat.

Friday’s Irish Times proclaimed: “Truly historic sporting occasions don’t come around too often but today, for 11 men wearing white sweaters embossed with shamrocks, what unfolds at Malahide will be truly momentous.”
“I’ve dreamed of being a Test cricketer for as long as I can remember. I must have dreamt the dream 100,000 times,” Ireland wicket-keeper Niall O’Brien wrote in an accompanying column.
Yet while many Irish sports fans are starting to get acquainted with cricket, the sport has deep roots in the “Emerald Isle.”
There are records of cricket being played in Ireland as early as 1731.
But the sport’s reputation suffered from being seen as the creation of English “colonizers.”
Ireland first made the rest of the cricket world sit up and take notice when they skittled out the touring West Indies, reputed to have enjoyed some typically generous Irish hospitality the night before, for just 25 on their way to a win at Sion Mills in 1969.
They made an even bigger global splash when they knocked Pakistan out of the 2007 one-day international World Cup tournament with a stunning St. Patrick’s Day win at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica.
But the joy in defeating Pakistan — as well as Bangladesh — in 2007 was eclipsed four years later, when England were beaten in a World Cup match in Bangalore.
That success redoubled Irish ambitions to play five-day Test cricket, still regarded as the sport’s supreme format.
If conditions in Malahide remain cold and overcast they could yet favor Ireland, although neither side will relish batting first under cloudy skies.
“We’ve always got a chance, it’s sport,” said Ireland captain William Porterfield on Thursday.
“Are we favorites? No. But we’ve as much chance as anyone if we do the basics right, in our own conditions we will give ourselves a very good chance,” he added.


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019
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Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”