Nothing can quite match the culmination of a rain-affected cricket match for that elusive combination of low farce and high drama. It is a piece of theatre beyond the most illustrious thespians, but with which any cricketer worth his jock-strap is well accustomed.
So it was last night in Providence that England eventually qualified for the Super Eights stage of the World Twenty20 on superior net run rate above Ireland in group D. It was lost on nobody that England went through largely because of the excellence of Eoin Morgan, a Dubliner who played 23 one-day internationals for Ireland before his defection in pursuit of a better cricketing life.
He played an utterly unsentimental innings of 45 from 37 balls, as typically busy and wonderfully flamboyant as any in the few months since he has become England's most compelling limited-overs batsman. How Ireland must have cursed their luck while quietly admiring the virtuosity of their compatriot.
The teams each won a point because the match between them was declared a no result as rain defeated the most dedicated of ground staff. West Indies finished top of the group having beaten both opponents, England the previous day in reduced circumstances, as it were.
England, thanks to Morgan, made 120 for eight on a sluggish pitch, probably enough but by no means a cast iron guarantee of qualification. Ireland replied with 14 for one in 3.3 overs, made in two separate sessions of cricket. Despite valiant attempts thereafter and at least one declaration of intent to resume the match it was eventually clear that the rain was not about to go quickly. In Guyana at this time of year it generally does not.
Covers came off, covers came on, the match pursued a similar course. Duckworth Lewis, the name of the arcane method used to decide matches in which the overs bowled have been reduced from the stipulated number, was in its element. In circumstances such as this it is still possible to imagine the devisers of the rigorously statistical method, Messrs Duckworth Lewis, jigging about their sitting rooms, performing something that looks suspiciously like a rain dance.
Ireland were as frustrated as England as had been the previous evening when West Indies won a weather-affected match, batting second. Paul Collingwood, England's captain, said: "Although it was probably a 130 wicket, we thought 120 was a winnable score. But you just want to play 20 overs and see who is best on the day. At one point it looked as though we were going to get back on and they needed 18 off nine balls and we just thought, 'oh no here we go again'."
How tigerishly Ireland performed after asking England to bat. England never broke free and they set off in a fashion more suited to the previous day's surface – a pitch's width and a world away. Big shots were hard to play, though Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter again tried.
But they were out before the six-over power play was up and when Kevin Pietersen, repeating his folly of the previous day by pulling to the mid-wicket boundary, was out just after Paul Collingwood, England were in a spot of bother at 49 for four from 9.4 overs. It is too early to pass definitive judgement, of course, but Pietersen and Collingwood, who played well in the Indian Premier League and came back preaching its virtues, have contributed 39 runs between them in four innings so far.
Morgan brought his usual calm repertoire into play and although the 17-year-old left arm spinner George Dockrell bowled with aplomb in the middle of the innings, England's Irishman and Luke Wright reassessed England's needs. Wright once again was effusively bucolic. When he plays cricket you can imagine that he is doing so only between lambing and harvesting.
Ireland were becalmed at the start of their innings by Tim Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom. They needed to break the shackles, they never had time to do so and in trying it Paul Stirling fell to a stunning, running catch by Lumb. But they had made just enough progress to think that if the match was cut to the minimum five overs under D-L they might be able to achieve the possible target of 41. It never came to it. England's World Twenty20 dreams are alive and embodied in an Irishman.
ICC World Twenty20 Group D
Providence Stadium: No Result, England 1pt, Ireland 1pt. Ireland won toss
M J Lumb c Rankin b O'Brien 14/0/3/11
†C Kieswetter run out 13/0/0/17
K P Pietersen c Mooney b O'Brien 9/0/0/18
*P D Collingwood c Botha b Johnston 0/0/0/3
E J G Morgan c Wilson b Botha 45/0/5/37
L J Wright c Porterfield b Rankin 20/1/0/24
T T Bresnan c Mooney b Rankin 5/0/1/6
G P Swann not out 7/0/0/5
M H Yardy run out 0/0/0/0
S C J Broad not out 0/0/0/0
Extras (lb 4, w 2, nb 1)/7
Total (8 wkts, 20 overs)/120
Fall: 1-24, 2-32, 3-32, 4-49, 5-90, 6-109, 7-115, 8-118.
Did not bat: R J Sidebottom.
Bowling: W B Rankin 4-0-25-2, T D Johnston 4-0-14-1, K J O'Brien 3-0-22-2, G Dockrell 4-0-19-0, A C Botha 4-0-29-1, A R Cusack 1-0-7-0.
*W T S Porterfield not out 4/0/0/10
P R Stirling c Lumb b Sidebottom 0/0/0/6
†N J O'Brien not out 9/0/2/5
Extras (w 1)/1
Total (1 wkt, 3.3 overs)/14
Did not bat: A R Cusack, K J O'Brien, G C Wilson, J F Mooney, T D Johnston, A C Botha, W B Rankin, G Dockrell.
Bowling: T T Bresnan 2-0-5-0, R J Sidebottom 1.3-0-9-1.
Umpires: B F Bowden & A L Hill.Reuse content