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.


Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

Updated 18 January 2019
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Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

  • Sharapova dumps out defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.
  • Rafa and Roger brush aside young guns in straight sets victories.

LONDON: It is coming up to the end of the first week of the Australian Open, so we thought we would take a look and see how some of the big names fared on day five of the year’s first Grand Slam.

MARIA SHARAPOVA

Maria Sharapova warned she is in the sort of form to win the Australian Open after she dumped Carolina Wozniacki out with an impressive 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win. It was the Russian’s best win since her return from a drugs ban and she looked like a winner-in-waiting.
“I thought the level was quite high. I knew I’d get a tough match — she (Wozniacki) is the defending champion,” the five-time Slam champion said.
“I haven’t played many matches in the last year against top players so it was really rewarding to win that last set. These are the kinds of matches I train for.”



ROGER FEDERER

Ageless Roger Federer marked his 100th Rod Laver Arena match Friday by storming past Taylor Fritz, then looked forward to a “high quality” last-16 clash against another young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion continued his quest for a record seventh Australian Open title with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 third-round demolition of 21-year-old American Fritz in just 88 minutes of flawless tennis.
Next up is 14th seed Tsitsipas. And the 37-year-old Federer is looking forward to taking on the fiery young Greek, who is 17 years his junior.
Federer played him in the recent mixed teams Hopman Cup, winning a closely contested singles 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), and said he was impressed.
“I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis,” Federer said.
“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a Slam.”



RAFAEL NADAL

Rafael Nadal declared “everything is a step forward” after brutally brushing aside Alex de Minaur at the Australian Open Friday in just the Spaniard’s third match since the US Open.
The world No. 2 was in ominous form as he continued his quest for an 18th Grand Slam by punishing the Australian teenager in a third-round tennis masterclass 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“In general terms, everything is a step forward. So that’s positive news for me,” said the man who won the Aussie Open in 2009.
“I’m very happy for the victory against someone who had won seven matches in a row, winning a tournament.”
On his fitness Nadal added: “Probably 10 years ago it would have been difficult not playing much tennis in the build-up but now I have been in this situation many times with the injuries I have had.
“I have to deal with the ups and downs of my body but I try to enjoy any moment on the court.”



MARIN CILIC

The former US Open champions was made to work for his place in the last 16 as he struggled to beat Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Verdasco showed glimpses of the form that once made him a top-10 player and had a match point, one he frittered away with a double fault.
I was just slightly luckier in those crucial moments,” the sixth-seeded Cilic said.
“(It is) unbelievable. Emotions were up and down,” Cilic said.
“When I was down two sets to none, it was a big hill to climb.”
It’s the seventh time in Cilic’s career that he has emerged to win a match after dropping the opening two sets.



ANGELIQUE KERBER

Second seed Kerber received a gift ride into the Australian Open fourth round for her 31st birthday when she overpowered local wildcard Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0.
The Wimbledon champion swept world No. 240 Birrell aside in just 58 minutes to set up a last-16 clash with unseeded American Danielle Collins.
Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, said she was used to celebrating her birthday on the road at the season-opening Grand Slam.
“I think it’s the 12th time in a row,” she said. “I’m getting older but I have the best time here and I’ll never forget my birthdays here in Australia.”
Kerber reached the semifinals last year but lost to Simona Halep in a tight three-setter.