Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ireland v England – The Alternative View

Nothing like playing up to a stereotype
“I’m supporting my two home teams” chirped one South African-come-Irishman as Craig Kieswetter and Jonathan Trott strolled out to bat at Clontarf. Very good, I thought. You can’t fault him for accuracy, although some questions remain over his relationship with his Irish chum next to him with a Leprechaun on his head.
Next to me is another local who appears to know his stuff; at least as far as being able to identify the counties to which some of England’s debutants are from. But there is little shrift for the notion that the visitors’ two South African openers are being skippered by a Dublin lad… “farce” I believe is a term I heard being used.
A braver soul than I might’ve raised Boyd Rankin’s exploits with England Lions, but let’s roll this back to the beginning. To Stansted Airport. And to a lovely pint of Magners enjoyed in the Wetherspoons. It is quite a shock how quiet Ryanair’s holding pen is during normal hours. Everyone else left at 5am for Malaga I guess.
By using the toilet on the flight over, I appeared to have sold my soul to Satan. Or Merv Hughes. My punishment was to think nothing ill of visiting the Temple Bar and being a tourist. If Ireland says it has paid back the UK’s loans in full, the pint and a half of Guinness in Temple Bar will tell you where those funds came from.
I had looked to @tomdotcom1 for some restraint, but I think he considers a man who, by 11pm, had been wearing flip-flops and a straw hat for approx 20 hours to be beyond such help. Fortunately, sleepytime called. I wouldn’t have let a lack of sleep ruin the following day’s play; we had the rain for that…
For the past fortnight, the forecast had been a changeable-yet-complete arse. The only constant was rain. This is Ireland, after all. But we had sunshine to start and threatening clouds were skirting the ground as we arrived. My aims were clear – get a free t-shirt, a free poncho and something with 4/6 on it to wave maniacally.
The rain did come before the start of play, but I was prepared. With the flip-flops on, I would avoid the annoyance of having wet shoes and socks. Meanwhile, with the poncho deployed to cover my seat, I wouldn’t get a wet that way. The hat can do the rest… it’s a hat, it has magic powers like that.
Rankin? Number One Test Team apparently
After the rain, play starts more or less on time. And Ireland – with something of a point to prove after the World Cup – begin well on a greeeeeeeeen surface. Yep, that’s how green it is. Rankin seems to me to have a tendency to stray onto leg a little too often, but Trott and Kieswetter aren’t setting the world alight with false shots and tickles.
By the time of the next rain interruption, England are two down and going along at a less-than-brisk 3-point-something an over. Eoin Morgan is, however, at the crease and you already sense there’s a key wicket here. But we’ll have to wait and see, because my feet are getting wet and the bar’s now open for Beamish. Nice.
The break gives one a chance to reflect; mainly at how many spectators were up in arms for catches taken off one bounce. This is serious cricket, not one bounce one hand rules. But with the unpredictability of the ICC, perhaps such a format is but months away from being introduced to keep the Associates off their case.
And it also at this point you get to admire the torrent of purple that has washed in over each of the stands at Clontarf CC. It’s very much Poncho o’Clock and the speed at which some have gone from ‘bagged poncho’ to ‘bagged in a poncho’ is amazing. The €5 cost of Beamish, meanwhile, is almost welcome after last night.
See. Blue sky. Just over there...
The restart is preceded by a crackly PA announcement about England going to a 4-4-f**king-2 formation, or something. I knew Andy Flower was absent, but did he have to send Mike Bassett? Turns out I was wrong anyway…. the game had been reduced to 42 overs. And Morgan was off, swinging momentum to the Englishsouthafricanirishmen.
Ireland’s policy of containment throughout the innings and into the sunshine at the latter stages almost kept England to under 200. Tail end bat throwing helped the visitors cause, but it had left Ireland with a challenging enough chase on that surface. But you would probably argue that the hosts had done their job.
The interval brought with it kids onto the pitch with a Kwik Cricket set and a desire to bump off a few people in the stands. Some of the batting on display would put my best efforts to shame; two shots cleared the stand and a third spent the rest of the day bouncing along the top of the Portaloos in the corner where fancy dress lived.
Did I mention the kid bowling off a full run up? One for England to nick perhaps.
After the fun in the sun came the pain in the rain. Ireland’s start mirrored that of their guests – slow scoring and two early wickets. In fact, the Irish became rather bogged down (no pun intended) before the rain break. But they were on an equal footing going into the rain delay. If clouds could talk, these ones were swearing.
The rainbow. It's holding up the sky!
It was a much-longer rain delay and the wind whipped up to create an autumnal feel to the afternoon. The flip flops suddenly seemed a bit foolish. There were at least some moments of sunshine, but ICC rules categorically state that you have to wait for more rain to come after a rain break before you can attempt to get the action re-started.
A revised target of quite a lot from not very many left Ireland with a tough task to pull off the victory. I retain the opinion that Jack Duckworth has done nothing to help the game of cricket with the method he devised with Morse’s sidekick. Yes, I know Eoin Morgan transformed England’s innings, but duh, Kevin O’Brien?!
Wickets started falling, Ireland started getting behind the required rate. Kev got two meaty sixes away but eventually yorked himself against Dernbach… and the earlier rain had pretty much washed away any lingering hopes. There was some defiant resistance down the order, but six-an-over ain’t enough when needing 12.
The final margin of victory was 11 runs and Eoin Morgan was named Man Of The Match… it was cricket’s way of telling Ireland “let’s see what you could have won” and gave England newbies a nice champagne spraying session to enjoy. It didn’t rain again that day, y’know…
That night, the flip-flops were dispensed with. Sleeping aside, they’d seen around 30 hours of action in two days – that’s 1,797 minutes more than Ravi Bopara had batted and 1,800 more than Tom Cleverley has managed for the England football team. I don’t think any winners have come out of that particular perspective.
Lost in Dublin...
As an addendum, you can rest assured that the flip-flops were given the Friday to recuperate as the Guinness Storehouse became the “place to be”. It slightly irks a former barman of little repute like me that any old fecker can get a certificate for pulling a pint there, but I suppose we’re all equals in the eyes of dear old Arthur.
Then again, maybe it was my shamrock that set me apart from the rest. Certainly apart from Tommy, who was too busy making a mess by leaving the tap running. But he’s from Barnet and has flippers for hands. I know my triumphs. And now I have a certificate to prove one of ‘em… some things transcend cricket, y’know.
Pete Hayman for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Pete on Twitter @petehayman

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