Cricket World Cup 2015 - Ireland vs West Indies match report: Paul Stirling leads cruise to victory as Ireland embarrass ICC over bias

West Indies 304-7 (50 overs) Ireland 307-6 (45.5 overs)

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The Independent Online

When the West Indies’ score reached 111 – nelson at Nelson – the crowd were implored to stand on one leg “unless you want the batsman to get out”. This prompted wry amusement around the ground.  Virtually every spectator, even if they were not draped in green, was urging Ireland on, 12,000 miles away from the Emerald Isle.

Small-town Nelson is also a long way from the glamour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground or the Adelaide Oval. Indeed, the entire population of Nelson would occupy only half of the MCG. But this charming boutique ground, on the north coast of New Zealand’s South Island, was witness to the most significant of the World Cup’s five games so far yesterday. The template that had prevailed – the stronger side bats first, scores over 300 and wins – was broken as a chasing side triumphed for the first time. More importantly, Ireland’s emphatic victory adds spice to the group stages.

Just don’t go call it a shock. That much the Ireland captain, William Porterfield, was clear on. “I don’t see it as an upset,” he said. “I actually hate the term upsets.”

So a moment of Irish triumph, a victory far more resounding than the three-wicket wins over Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup and England in 2011, became a chance for them to highlight the unjust hand they are dealt. Because of cricket’s archaic way of dividing up countries – there are full members who enjoy copious funding and playing opportunities, and then associate and affiliate members who are not invited to the Test-playing club – Ireland are left to fight over scraps.

“It would be nice to have more fixtures in the four years outside of the World Cups,” Porterfield said. “We’ve played nine ODIs against top-eight teams in the last four years, which is frustrating, and then we come here and show what we can do.”

West Indies’ Darren Sammy, who added to his reputation as one of the game’s nicest men by his congratulations to Porterfield, also backed Ireland’s cause. “They could go far in this tournament,” he said. “I don’t tend to get involved with things that are above my head but if they continue to play like this they will get what they finally deserve.”

There have now been five successful chases of over 300 in World Cup history and three have been by Ireland, the team that cricket’s ruling elite ignores. For as long as Ireland are denied Test status and a decent fixture list, England will be able to cherry-pick the best Irish talent, like Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin.

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Lendl Simmons leaps in joy after hitting a century against Ireland

The chief executive of the International Cricket Council, Dave Richardson, recently said that only eight teams in the world are “competitive”, which he used as justification for the plan for the 2019 World Cup to be reduced to 10 teams. According to an ICC source, Giles Clarke, who would like to become president next year, is “hell-bent” on a 10-team competition, on the grounds that it would guarantee India nine matches.

Yet, on this sumptuous day at Nelson, Ireland made a mockery of such sporting injustice. After Porterfield won the toss, his side produced a typically zestful performance in the field, embodied by the World Cup debutant Andy McBrine’s direct hit from point to remove Darren Bravo before he had faced a ball. The off-spinner was a surprise selection, but he displayed remarkable chutzpah to begin his World Cup career with a maiden to Chris Gayle in the Powerplay.

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Ed Joyce hit 84 for Ireland as they chased down the West Indies total of 304-7

Ireland’s left-arm spinner George Dockrell, a veteran of a World Cup and three World T20s at the age of 22, bowled with wonderful control and nerve in a performance  worthy of comparison with Daniel Vettori.

But Ireland’s spin twins could have done with more assistance. Max Sorensen, John Mooney and Kevin O’Brien make for a samey attack of right-arm medium pace, highlighting the loss of Rankin to England, and the last 15 overs brought 167 as full tosses were clubbed to and over the short boundaries.

Not that Ireland were perturbed. They had chased down 327 in Bangalore against England, after all. On that occasion Porterfield dragged on to the very first ball of the innings; this time he left a delivery well alone, and it went for five wides.

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West Indies leave the field as Ireland celebrate their victory

Until a late wobble of three wickets for six runs, Ireland cruised home with the air of a side so assured of victory that they were focused on boosting their net run rate. Three players – Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien – played outstanding innings that would ordinarily have been worthy of the man-of-the-match award. As it was, the honour went to Stirling for an innings brimming with high-class intent; one six clattered over midwicket off Kemar Roach almost invoked the arrogance of Caribbean masters of yore.

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Irish fans celebrate the victory over West Indies

For all the thrill brought by Ireland’s victory, there was an elegiac element to watching a West Indies team with such a singular lack of focus and  discipline. Yet nostalgia is no reason to maintain a status quo that shows such contempt for cricket’s emerging nations.

“They pump all this money into the West Indies who aren’t bothered,” Ireland’s biggest fan, Larry the  Leprechaun, lamented here on the grassy bank. “Why can’t they at least give us half as much?”

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