Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ireland have come so far and are so near, yet a quarterfinal is still many a mile away.

On six points, in pool B, with three wins, one more and they will garner a coveted position in the final eight. Having lost to India, today, they must now turn their attention to Pakistan on Sunday. Draw or win and they're in, lose and they're not. Be negative and hope for a wash out, that'll do too.

That win seems far away. Some say five days, others say when the Irish come to grips with the vagaries of World class spin bowling, then they can play with the big boys.

Ranked eleventh in the world, it is not often they are greeted with the opportunity to compete against the heavyweights. When it does come they are regularly found wanting. On the most docile of pitches, at Hamilton's Seddon Park, they sauntered their way to eighty for the loss of none against the Indian pacemen. Which, at first, appears contrary to the point. Until, that is, R Ashwin was brought on in the fifteenth over. And how it all changed.

Suddenly the Irish, who seemed comfortable with pace, threw open the notion that they are clueless against spin. They spied this attractive looking cherry, but try as they might they were out of sync with its flight. From crashing and bashing fours off of pace to being teased with turn and variations of speed by Ashwin, Ashwin scattered this pitch with the ash of Ireland's hopes.

Ireland's batsmen had no chance of sashaying down the pitch to the pitch of the ball. When they attempted to do so they were outsmarted. From the moment Paul Stirling, who was beaten in the air by this spinning maestro, holed out to long-off, the rot set in.

From a run rate of six an over to four and a half in the space of only a few over's, Ireland's batsmen could do no more than awkwardly block. Eight over's later and he had gone for a miserly nineteen runs. It was only in Ashwin's final two over's that Niall O'Brien decided to take to him, blasting a further nineteen off twelve deliveries.

Still, by then, the damage had been done and any hope of the men in green achieving three hundred plus had disintegrated. With their own attack lacking a spinner in the same class as Ashwin, and pacemen for whom the radar gun barely registers one hundred and thirty clicks, India's star-studded batting line-up were never going to be troubled gathering in this meagre total of two hundred and fifty nine.

India achieved this with over ten over's to go, exposing this minnow's myriad of weaknesses in the process.

But now Ireland know what they are up against on Sunday. Pakistan may not be quite the same level as India, but they are not far off. They have a useful leg spinner, too. So that particular headache isn't going anywhere.

And until the men in green can improve their abilities against spin, they may be even greener with envy at the sight of others going for glory in the quarterfinals.

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