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.


Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

Updated 26 June 2019
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Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

  • The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy

RENNES, France: Tears were still flowing from Saki Kumagai’s eyes more than 30 minutes later.
With victorious Dutch rivals passing her on the way out of the stadium, Japan’s captain seemed to find solace in speaking about the penalty long after it cost her team a place in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup.
With Tuesday night’s game entering the 90th minute locked at 1-1, Kumagai’s outstretched left arm blocked the shot Vivianne Miedema had aimed into the right side of the net.
“It had my hand for sure,” Kumagai said. “It’s difficult to accept but it’s also sad. I know that is football.”
Referee Melissa Borjas pointed to the penalty spot and Lieke Martens netted her second goal of the game in the 90th minute to seal a 2-1 victory that sent the Netherlands into the quarterfinals for the first time.
“We have made history,” Martens said. “I’m not usually taking the penalties but I felt really good this game. I asked Sherida Spitse if I could take it and she gave it directly to me and I felt quite relaxed about it.”
The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy on Saturday after going one stage further than their Women’s World Cup debut four years ago.
“We were standing in the circle after the match and we were so happy, yelling at each other,” Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said. “We were saying, ‘Let’s continue writing history.’“
It is journey’s end for Japan, which won the 2011 tournament and was the runner-up four years later.
The strength of the second-half display counted for nothing.
As befitting a meeting of the Asian and European champions, the game produced some of the slickest action of the World Cup. A backheel flick set up Martens to send the Dutch in front in the 17th minute and Yui Hasegawa equalized in the 43rd to complete a slick passing move.
But the post, crossbar and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal thwarted Japan’s pursuit of a winning goal.
“I think we lacked the clinical edge,” Japan coach Asako Takakura said. “We have to accept the result, we’re defeated, we’re very disappointed and for all the players I feel very sorry for them and frustrated.”
With the last Asian team eliminated, the Women’s World Cup will have a record seven European teams in the quarterfinals. Norway and England meet in Le Havre on Thursday and France takes on the United States the following night. After the Netherlands plays Italy on Saturday, Germany and Sweden will meet.
“It’s really tough to be here,” Netherlands forward Miedema said. “Sometimes it kind of feels like a Euros.”
That is a title already won by this team, thanks to Miedema’s goals in the final two years ago on home soil.
The fans won’t have far to travel for the World Cup quarterfinal, with Valenciennes around two hours’ drive from the Netherlands.
It will be another chance for the orange-clad fans who danced and sang their way in a convoy to the stadium on Tuesday to stamp their mark on this tournament.
They were certainly given a game to savor, and an audacious opening goal.
Martens flicked in the opener after evading her marker to meet a corner and send the ball through the legs of Yuika Sugasawa into the net.
Sugasawa had a quick chance to tie, only to hit the post. But Japan did equalize by completing an intricate move.
Hina Sugita squared across the penalty area to Yuika Sugasawa, who passed back to Mana Iwabuchi on the edge of the penalty area. After holding off Jackie Groenen on the turn, Iwabuchi slipped the ball through to Hasegawa, who was free to delicately dink a shot over Van Veenendaal into the corner of the net.
It was some way to make the most of a first shot on target for a team that failed to score in two of its three group stage games.
But parity nearly didn’t last long.
Miedema received the ball from Shanice van de Sanden but with only Ayaka Yamashita to beat struck straight at the Japan goalkeeper.
Van Veenendaal came to the rescue of the Dutch in the second half by denying Emi Nakajima as Japan chased the winner.
“Japan is a world class team and you saw that today,” Miedema said. “In the second half you can see they have loads of quality on the pitch.”