Do They Play Cricket in Ireland? is journalist David Townsend’s story of following the Ireland team for 25 years as they rise from being one of almost 100 Associate teams to full Test member, taking in the battle for ODI status, iconic World Cup victories, and a first Test in Dublin against Pakistan – all culminating, a year later, in a Test against England at Lord’s before the Ashes. In the last of three extracts, Ireland take on England in front of 10,000 in Malahide but it’s a little difficult to work out who’s playing for who…
For most of the summer – it seemed like forever – I’d been inundated with emails and social media messages from Andrew Leonard, the marketing man at Cricket Ireland, imploring me to buy tickets for the visit of England. The campaign was relentless but boy did it pay off. A crowd in excess of 10,000 at a cricket match in Dublin? Yep. Never got half that number before, or since. And the sun shone.
The little ginger fella, who was captaining his adopted side for the first time on the ground where he had played club cricket as a teenager, enlivened the pre-match press conference by insisting that Stirlo [Paul Stirling] should follow his lead and play for England. “Paul knows my thoughts.” It wasn’t the most diplomatic thing to say but it was pure Eoin.
I arrived on the eve of the match and was soon helping with the final touches to the press centre. The wifi would be working, the engineer promised. Just give him a bit more time. Barry Chambers was ready for a pint but there was no way the media manager was leaving the ground until the internet was installed.
Pleased with himself, the engineer said: “Right, all we need now is a password?”
Those of us milling around came up with several variations on ‘Where’s KP’ as the great man had declined his invitation to play. Then I hit on an idea. “How about Bangalore2011?”
An hour before play the following morning, Mike Atherton popped his head around the door. “Anyone know the wifi password, please?”
“You are kidding?”
“That’s brilliant!” The former England captain left laughing.
Eoin put Ireland into bat and opened the bowling with a familiar figure. So he hadn’t been injured all summer, Boyd Rankin had swapped flags too. He bowled beautifully, having Stirlo caught and forcing Ed so far back in his crease that he dislodged a bail with his foot. Porty [William Porterfield] held the innings together, hitting 14 fours and a six in his sixth ODI century before he too fell to his fellow north-wester for 112. Big Boyd’s figures were 4-46.
Ireland posted 269-7 and the enormous gathering were hopeful at half-time. Among them was former coach Mike Hendrick, who had been flown over for the occasion by Cricket Ireland. He was close to a tear. Had someone mentioned that Viv lbw again?
“You know, I would never have thought this possible,” he said, sweeping his arm around the pop-up stadium. “It makes me very proud to think I played a small part in it.”
Johnston opened the bowling for Ireland. “Trent reckons he’s only got 100 overs left in him,” Hendo confided. “I told him ‘Then make them good ones!'” TJ claimed the first and then Murtagh came to the party with three wickets. When James Taylor was bowled, the visitors were 48-4 and most of the 10,000 were ready to celebrate another famous win. The England captain, or ‘the wee bollix’, depending on your viewpoint, had different ideas and took the game away from Ireland with an unbeaten 124. Ravi Bopara also made a century and England won by six wickets, easing up. What a mixed-up match.
The best England bowler grew up on a farm in Co Tyrone, the best Ireland bowler was born and bred in south London and an Irishman won man-of-the-match after leading England to victory.
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