Cricket: Cronje's Ireland make history

Ireland 281-4 Middlesex 235 Ireland win by 46 runs
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The Independent Online
Ireland's team of amateur club cricketers, boosted by South Africa's captain, Hansie Cronje, made history at Castle Avenue in Dublin yesterday when they beat an English county side in competition for the first time.

Mike Gatting, the Middlesex captain was generous in his praise of the Irish, who narrowly failed to qualify for the 1999 World Cup at the recent ICC tournament in Malaysia. "I would not attempt to make any excuses," he said. "They turned in an excellent performance."

Ireland's coach, Mike Hendrick, who played Test cricket for England, said: "This win is a credit to all the hard work the guys have put in, and the way they've adopted a professional approach."

Justin Benson, the Irish captain, said: "I am immensely proud of the team. The presence of Hansie Cronje is an obvious advantage and the guys res-ponded with a great team effort."

Cronje, who is reportedly being paid pounds 20,000 for the zonal cup campaign, arrived only last Friday. "It was great to share in such an historic win," he said. "Beating Middlesex will do a lot to promote the game here."

The end for the men from Lord's came on the fourth ball of the 46th over when Derek Heasley - a fireman by profession - bowled Simon Cook.

By close on Monday's rain-interrupted first day, Middlesex, chasing 281, were struggling on 134 for 6 after 32.2 overs. Yesterday, Keith Brown and Jamie Hewitt put on 41 before Benson removed Hewitt, well caught by Angus Dunlop at deep midwicket.

Cronje added 3 for 38 to his unbeaten 94, but the Gold Award went to Decker Curry, a 30-year-old Derry abattoir worker. He scored a fine 75, sharing an opening stand of 72 with Kyle McCallan.

In 1969, Ireland beat the West Indies at Sion Mills, and in 1977 they beat Sussex in a three-day game at Pagham, but yesterday's win was the first achieved over a full-strength professional side.

Next up are Somerset at Taunton on Friday.

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