Mohammad Amir’s Shocking Retirement Announcement

This week the cricket world was shocked by the announcement from Mohammad Amir, the Pakistani fast bowler. It was announced that he is retiring from Test cricket with immediate effect.

Mohammad Amir

The now 27-year-old Amir made it clear that he is only retiring from test cricket. The world will still see this left-arm fast bowler in action during Twenty20 internationals and one-day games. Amir made his debut at the age of 17 in 2009 during a match against Sri Lanka. During his career, he played 36 Tests for Pakistan. During these he took 119 wickets, giving him a 30.47 average. His record was against the Windies with six for 44 in April 2017. His stronghold in cricket has always been limited-overs cricket. This help the Pakistan team a great deal towards winning in 2017, the Champions Trophy title. Amir was also part of the group of bowlers picked for the recent 50-overs World Cup held in England, during which he took 17 wickets. The team just missed a spot in the semi-finals while ending fifth in the group. He made his announcement through the Pakistan Cricket Board. His focus will now be on white-ball cricket only. He also mentioned that he is focusing on getting into the best physical shape he can. Although the years playing for Pakistan formed him into a great cricket player and much stronger human being, it came with some adversity as well.

Jailed for Game Fixing

Shortly after making his debut in 2009, Amir was one of three players involved in a conspiracy and was sent to jail. They were the then 28-year-old Mohammad Asif sent to prison for one year, then Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt, sent to prison for 30 months and Amir, only 19 years old, sent to prison for six months. They were found guilty of the conspiracy of bowling no-balls during a test match against England. Each of the three players also received a fine to pay. Their arrest was made in August 2010 just after the fourth Test between England and Pakistan. To manipulate the timing of no-balls is a significant role player with spot-fixing in the sports betting market. According to resources, Amir was paid £2,500 for his contribution in the conspiracy. His fine amounted to £8,120. In the end, he served three months in jail and had a five-year ban from cricket. He only returned to the Pakistan cricket scene again in 2016.

The Future for Mohammad Amir

Ideally, he wants to be in the best shape he can be to contribute to his team’s success. One of the challenges which he is looking forward to is the ICC T20 World Cup. Even the adversity which he had to suffer in his youth couldn’t stop him from achieving greatness in the cricket world. He made mistakes in his youth and paid the price. His teammates will miss his personality and skill on the field and in the dressing room.

Zimbabwe’s Suspension from the ICC

Zimbabwe became the very first member of the ICC to be suspended. Even though associate members have been expelled and suspended before, the sanctioning of Zimbabwe by the ICC is unprecedented but certainly not expected. Let’s take a closer look at how this unfolded only a month ago.

Why was Zimbabwe Suspended

The ICC gathered in London, England a week ago and decided to suspend Zimbabwe immediately, among other things, because the country failed to provide a process for democratic and free elections while failing to make sure that there’s no interference from the government in its governance.

The ruling occurred due to the decision that was made by the SRC (Sports and Recreation Commission) to suspend the Zimbabwe cricket board following the elections that the SRC has claimed to be unconstitutional earlier in June. A financial audit of Zimbabwe was requested by the SRC, reaching out to the ICC for guidance and assistance, placing a temporary committee to operate cricket in the country until a board election can take place on September 2020.

How Does This Effect Zimbabwe

The funding for Zimbabwe has been completely cut off, and both the women’s and men’s cricket teams have been banned from any ICC events. However, given Zimbabwe’ Cricket’s financial state, and the country itself, the suspension caused all professional cricket to be ceased in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Cricket has stated that the country will no longer participate in a tri-series against Bangladesh in September. This means that players will also not receive any match fees or salaries. Also, the domestic season will not be staged due to the suspension. In a place that is battling with an economic meltdown already, the suspension has caused hundreds of people to be unemployed and managed to affect a great deal more.

The Sports and Recreation Commission

The Sports and Recreation Commission is primarily a statutory body that was created by a Zimbabwean Act of Parliament back in 1991. It’s a type of parastatal that is directed by Acts of Parliament and selected by the sports minister. However, it doesn’t form part of the government in Zimbabwe. Its purpose is to regulate sporting associations within the country and to ensure that each of them adheres to the constitutions. The chairperson for the SRC is Gerald Mlotshwa.

So What Happens Now?

It’s difficult to escape the fact that the ICC has grown quite weary of the Zimbabwe Cricket saga, allowing them to cut them loose quite quickly due to this. At the moment, there’s no recovery plan in sight. However, the board will look at this concern again in October 2019. Until then, the women’s and men’s cricket teams in Zimbabwe have absolutely no hope and no roadmap at the moment. Solomon Mire has recently announced that he will be retiring and loads of other players will follow in his footsteps if a solution isn’t found soon. Let’s hope this gets cleared up before its too late.

National Cricket Teams With The Most Test Match Wins

Test matches can be seen as international cricket games that are only played between members that form part of the International Cricket Council who also have Test status. These cricket matches consist of two innings for each team and don’t have any limits when it comes to the number of overs. In March 1877, the first official test match was played between Australia and England. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the cricket teams that have the most test match wins in the world.

Australia – 372 Wins

Australia played it’s very first test cricket match back in 1877 and is considered the oldest cricket team in Test cricket history along with England. When it comes to their win-loss ratio, overall wins, and percentage wins, you will find that Australia ranks as the number one cricket team when it comes to Test cricket. The national cricket team of Australia participated in 4 successive World Cups and managed to win 3 of them. They also managed to win the World Cup in 2015 on home soil.

England – 346 Wins

Wales and England represent the national cricket team of England. The Wales and England cricket board have been the governing body of the team since 1997. However, from 1903 until 1996, the England cricket team was administered by the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club). In 1877, Australia and England were considered the first teams that participated in a Test match. At the moment, England holds the highest record when it comes to ODI totals and is currently ranked 5th when it comes to T20I’s and ODI’s and is ranked 4th in terms of Tests.

West Indies – 164 Wins

The Cricket Board of the West Indies is essentially a coalition of 15 different Caribbean countries that predominantly speak English along with British and non-British dependencies. During the 1970s to the 1990s, the West Indies cricket team dominated both Test cricket and ODI’s. The unit boasts with some of the best players in the world, all of whom have been featured on the ICC Hall of Fame. The West Indies have claimed two wins at World Cups, including 1979 and 1975. The West Indies haven’t won a major tournament since, but remain one of the best cricket teams in the world in both batting and bowling abilities.

South Africa – 145 Wins

Nicknamed ‘The Proteas’, the South African cricket team is governed by CSA (Cricket South Africa) and is a member of the ICC Test status and ODI International status. On 20 August 2012, the South African cricket team were ranked as the best team when it came to Test cricket. However, eight days later, the South African cricket team was ranked the best cricket team in the world in all three formats. At the moment, South Africa is ranked as the third best team in the world when it comes to T20I’s, first in terms of ODI’s, and third when you look at Test cricket results.

Chris Gayle Will Retire from ODI’s Following World Cup

Chris Gayle is playing exceptionally well in the ODI series while facing England, and with the World Cup to follow, it’s highly unlikely that a lack of confidence is holding him back.

“You are looking at an exceptional man,” Gayle stated when asked if he was satisfied with his cricketing career. “I am currently the greatest cricket player in the world and still considered the Universe Boss which is something that will never change. I will take that to the grave.”

Chris Gayle’s Career

However, his cricketing career, on an ODI level, is about to come to an end. The next few weeks will see Gayle participate in his last ODI when he visits the Caribbean, while retirement will come after the World Cup campaign comes to an end for West Indies. At the age of 39 and also on the brink of becoming the fourteenth man to score more than 10,000 runs in ODI’s, he finally decided to call it a day. Should he be selected for the World Cup, it will be his fifth tournament in his cricketing career.

“I will draw the line after the next World Cup, “Gayle stated. “With 50-over cricket, it’s the end for me after the World Cup. I’ll give the youngsters the opportunity to have some fun while I sit back and enjoy the game from the party stand. Claiming a win at the World Cup will undoubtedly be a fairy-tale finish. There’s no denying that the youngsters own it to me to claim a victory. They need to do that for me and attempt to claim the trophy for me too. I’ll provide my input in the World Cup as well.”

Thankfully, Gayle hopes that it’s not the end of his cricketing career. Apart from the several T20 commitments he made in the domestic leagues, he hasn’t ruled out appearing in the T20 World Cup which will take place in Australia during 2020.

“It’s simple, if I don’t play, it won’t be considered a tournament,” Gayle stated. “England should invite me over. Once that happens, I’ll explore the competition and thanks, everyone. I’ll be able to set the trend like I managed to do in tournaments across the globe. I’m in perfect condition. My body is feeling fantastic, and I’m pleased about that. I managed to lose a bit of weight and refuse to get too big. Thankfully, there’s still time to work on my six pack. I’m attempting to keep up with the younger players on the field who act like cats when they chase the ball. Fortunately, I still have what is needed, and I still enjoy the game.”

When Chris Gayle and the West Indies managed to defeat England in a recent Test series, Gayle stated that it was one of the best things that ever happened in the last decade. He will be remembered as one of the best cricket players that ever played the sport.

Things England Need To Fix for Second Test in Antigua

After a devastating defeat in Barbados, the England cricket team only have a couple of days to turn things around before the second Test in Antigua. Before the match gets underway, let’s take a look at a few things that England need to fix in order to avoid another crushing defeat.

Don’t Leave An Experienced Seamer on the Bench

One of the biggest talking points before the first Test was played was whether Sam Curran or Stuart Broad would be selected as the second seamer. The team decided to go with Curran’s all-around batting skills and swing bowling instead of the hit-the-deck style that Broad brings to the table. However, Curran was unfortunately unable to make a huge impression due to the new ball and struggled to get control. When you play in the West Indies, regardless of the pitch is fasts or slow, you always go with a tall, quick bowler. It was a bad call to go with Curran instead of Broad.

Select a Spinner Who Plays a Holding Role

The decision made by England to include two spinners was a big concern as the West Indies decided to select four quicks along with Roston Chase who is a part-time spinner. In Sri Lanka, England succeeded as they played Jack Leach, Adil Rashid, and Moeen Ali. This trio managed to complement each other thanks to their unique strengths. However, in Barbados, England decided to bench Leach which resulted in both Rashid and Moeen leaking runs. The deck in Antigua is not quick or solid, so two spinners might be the right call this time around, but in Barbados, it was definitely the wrong call.

Time to Change the Batting Order

Although Rory Burns provided a stunning 84 runs during the second-innings, there were quite a few doubts when it came to Keaton Jennings who only scored 14 and 17 and was caught twice on edging drives. Even though Jennings managed to score two Test hundreds in Asia, he has quite a few difficulties when he faces pace bowlers. This is a weakness that West Indies will definitely exploit. The best option for England in Antigua is to replace him with Joe Denly, who is currently uncapped but does boast with loads of experience.  He is an exceptional player at the moment and will do far better in terms of batting when compared to Jennings.

Joe Root Needs To Be Revived

Another major issue that can be rectified before playing in Antigua is the outcome that Joe Root provided at the Kensington Oval during their horrible defeat. Joe Root’s batting average managed to drop below 50 which is the first time since 2014 with scores of 22 and 4. A top order that is currently misfiring placed an increase of pressure on him. However, nothing will assist England more than Root reviving his touch when it comes to batting. He needs to play much better for England to have a chance of winning this time around.

AB de Villiers To Play in Lahore for PSL Matches

AB de Villiers, the former batsman for South Africa, will play a total of two games for Lahore Qalandars during the upcoming Pakistan Super League on 9 and 10 March 2019. De Villiers stated that he has a role to play when it comes to bringing international cricket back to Pakistan and will be considered one of the most highly regarded cricketers to participate in the country since the Lahore terror attack took place in March 2009.


De Villiers Picked in Draft by Lahore Qalandars


De Villiers, who managed to retire from international cricket following the end of the 2018 IPL, was picked in the draft by Lahore Qalandars in November and was initially signed on to participate in a total of seven league matches during the UAE leg of the cricket tournament. However, he said last week that he would only be available for two league matches, against Multan Sultans and Islamabad United, before he made his return home. He will only be available during the group stages of the tournament due to family commitments.


“I am thrilled to announce that I will represent Qalandars on 9 and 10 March 2019, during the 2019 HBL PSL, de Villiers stated in a press release. “I’m looking forward to revisiting the extraordinary stadium in Gaddafi and will aim to play my part in assisting Qalandars to achieve something that they have been wanting since the tournament started in 2016.


“I’m well aware that cricket in Pakistan is like a second religion and still remember the appreciation and support we received back in 2007. In addition, I feel that I have a huge role to play to help international cricket make a return to Pakistan. This is only a few of the motivating aspects I have to return to Lahore.


“I obviously sympathise with Pakistan and its people due to the fact that the country has been starved of cricket. However, I’m quite optimistic that international cricket will make its return to the country where the stadiums will once again be packed with fans from around the world.”


High Profile South African Players


De Villiers is regarded as one of the most highly profiled players from South Africa to participate in Pakistan, after David Miller, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla, and Faf de Plessis toured the country with the renowned World XI side for a total of 3 T20 internationals during the 2017 Independence Cup in late September. Other cricket players from South Africa, including JP Duminy, Colin Ingram, and Rilee Rossouw played games in Pakistan during the PSL.


The 2017 Independence Cup was the second international cricket tournament that occurred in Pakistan following Zimbabwe’s tour during 2015. Zimbabwe was the first country to tour Pakistan following the attack in 2009 when the Sri Lankan bus managed to suspend international cricket from the country. After the Independence Cup, a T20 international took place against Sri Lanka as well as three T20 internationals when the West Indies visited the country.

Best Cricket Players of All Time


Compiling a list of the best cricket players in the world is no easy task. However, once in a while, a player will surface that changes the game forever. This type of player performs beyond your wildest imagination and takes the game to a completely new level in the process. He manages to set new dimensions and standards for future generations to exceed. In the same breath, there’s also a handful of players that set records and benchmarks that will never be equalled. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best cricket players of all time, whose legacy and accomplishments will be cherished forever.

Donald Bradman

Donald Bradman, also referred to as The Don, is regarded as the best batsman to ever play the sport. In test cricket, he’s batting average was a mind-blowing 99.94 which is an achievement that cannot be matched by any major sport. Bradman is regarded as the epitome when it comes to excellency in cricket. With a 1349 Wisden rating, Bradman is the best test batsman that manages to outrank the number 2 player by a total of 349 points. Bradman has a total of 117 First Class centuries and 29 Test centuries to his name with a top score of 334.

Sachin Tendulkar

Tendulkar is considered the finest batsman of all time and is the highest run scorer when it comes to international cricket. He started playing at the age of 16 and is the only cricket player that has managed to score 100 centuries internationally. Tendulkar was also the first cricket player to reach 200 runs in an ODI and is known as the God of Cricket or the Master Blaster. Tendulkar boasts with 51 Test centuries and 49 ODI centuries. He managed to play in 463 ODI games and 200 Test matches during his career.

Viv Richards

As a former batsman for the West Indies, Richards is considered the greatest batsman in the world. He is the first player in the history of cricket to receive 20 awards for the Man of the Match and managed to play 121 Test matches and 187 ODI matches in his career. He managed to score 189 runs in Test Cricket and 291 runs in an ODI. Richards was also a magnificent bowler during his time a total of 118 wickets.

Michael Bevan

Bevan is a former Australian cricket player who is considered one of the most consistent players when it comes to ODI formats. With a batting average of 53.58, he currently holds the world record for the best batting average in terms of ODI matches. He also formed part of the Australian teams that managed to win the World Cup. Renowned as the finisher, Michael played an important role to lead a team to victory. There is currently no other batsmen in the world that has the same consistency when it comes to batting and assisting his team to claim victory.

2019 Cricket World Cup

The 2019 Cricket World Cup (or the ICC Cricket World Cup to use its full name) is still quite some way off. In fact, it isn’t scheduled to begin until May 2019. Already, though, qualifiers and preliminaries are deciding the teams which will face each other at the main event. Spread over 48 matches, the upcoming Cricket World Cup may not be the longest ever competition, but it is shaping up to be the most exciting in a long line of terrific tournaments.

The Early Years

Over the years, the Cricket World Cup has provided a host of memorable finals. First held in England in 1975, the tournament grows more popular and more prestigious each event. England (generally regarded as a decent international cricket team) has never won the event but have failed three times in the finals. In terms of winners, Australia leads the way, having won the competition no less than five times since that first 1975 event. Most recently, they defeated their rivals New Zealand in 2015, a side they co-hosted the competition with.

Australia hasn’t had it all their own way, though. In fact, Pakistan won the 1992 event, while prior to the Aussies winning their fifth title, India secured their second in 2011. Caribbean sides have also done well, bagging the first two titles in the very early years of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

The 2019 World Cup

This brings us to the upcoming tournament, the final of which will be held at Lords, the home of English cricket. This will be the twelfth Cricket World Cup, and just ten teams (as opposed to the 14 of the previous two events) will go from a group stage to a semi-final and possibly a final on their travels to success.
And the Winner Will Be?

2019 Cricket World Cup runs May 30 to July 14, 2019

Is it too early to predict a winner? Not really. Lately, international cricket has become predictable. Australia and India are, of course, the favourites to win the next Cricket World Cup, with England (as ever) also a favourite.

South Africa are an outsiders favourite to lift the trophy, but in reality, it is almost certainly going to be one of the “big three”, despite, the South Africans good run at the 2015 tournament. Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and New Zealand aren’t realistic options, but surprises do happen in sport, and any of those four teams could, in theory, hand out a surprise beating to one of the so-called big boys.

There are still places up for grabs in the qualifiers, too. Sri Lanka, even the Netherlands (whom one would normally associate with cricket) are in the qualifiers, as are many other less established cricket teams. As we’ve said, none are likely to put up too much of a fight, but with the tournament reduced to 10 teams, you’re going to get plenty of excitement from the upcoming tournament. It is still a way off, but perhaps it is time you started paying attention to the Cricket World Cup today?

India vs Pakistan World Cup 2015: Dhoni’s strategic masterstrokes deliver clinical victory

_MG_8196 by lensmate, on Flickr

CLINICAL. A word which, in the context closest to what I am pursuing, is defined by Oxford Dictionary as: very efficient and without feeling; coldly detached. A word, whose association in the cricketing sense, almost begins and ends with Australia when it comes to long-term positioning, also temporarily attributed to other teams who occasionally rise above feelings associated with mere mortals to register famous victories. A word hardly ever associated with India vs. Pakistan clashes, World Cup or otherwise, which are always high adrenalin, passionate, memorable moment generating affairs.

And yet, even after churning my mind over with a plethora of adjectives to select one which would best capture the essence of the mauling India handed out to their neighbors at the Adelaide Oval in a marquee contest of the 2015 ICC World Cup, the winner is – clinical. In a match mostly bereft of the intensity and heated exchanges normally associated with Indo-Pakistan clashes, barring the sea of blue and green jerseys in the stands, MS Dhoni downed his counterpart Misbah-ul-Haq in a strategic battle which saw the Pakistanis crash to one of their biggest defeats on the World Cup stage. 

Dhoni’s masterstroke #1: A perfect XI, given available resources

After numerous permutations and combinations with the playing XI in the run up to the tournament, an act which can be dubbed experimentation or red-herring strategy, depending on one’s appetite for conspiracy theories, Dhoni got together the perfect XI, given the resources.

This batting line-up, which finally looks fearsome, at least on paper, should not be tampered with at all. Ambati Rayudu, for all his earnestness, is unfortunately not in the same league as the rest of the batsmen, and his eviction makes the line-up look formidable, though perhaps one batsman lesser than optimum.

Ravichandran Ashwin, ignored for a majority of the tri-series, delivered one of his best spells in recent times overseas; the confidence with which he bowled both the regular offies as well as the variations, was not on show in recent times, and definitely hints at the possibility of Dhoni playing this one close to his chest.

The seamers, sans Bhuvneshwar Kumar, were impressive. Ravindra Jadeja looks the weakest link in the bowling attack, and could make way for Akshar Patel, should India persist with two spinners, or Stuart Binny on pitches more conducive for the swinging ball. 

Dhoni’s masterstroke #2: Reining in the firebrands

In what is unlikely to be a coincidence, two of India’s biggest firebrand batsmen, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum as far as form is concerned, displayed immense maturity in building their respective innings, in a complete departure from the recklessness both demonstrated during the recently concluded tri-series tournament in Australia.

Kohli did have his momentary brain-freeze, when he almost replicated his dismissal off Nathan Lyon in the second innings of the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar 2001 series, at the same venue, while attempting a short-arm pull off Shahid Afridi. A better fielder than Yasir Shah might have drawn the curtains prematurely on a now-historic innings, but Kohli survived.

Even more impeccable was Dhawan’s shot selection, and after surviving a trying spell from the seven-footer Mohammed Irfan, the southpaw settled down into his best innings on the Australian tour thus far. Dhawan looked more comfortable than Kohli at the crease, mixing caution with aggression, and was set for a big 100 before the misunderstanding cut short his innings.

Dhoni’s masterstroke #3: Raina’s promotion

When Dhawan fell in the 30th over with the score reading 163, the stage looked set for an in-form Ajinkya Rahane to come in and consolidate the innings between overs 30-40, before Raina and Dhoni launched the final assault in the death overs.

In a masterstroke reminiscent of the skipper promoting himself over Yuvraj Singh in the 2011 World Cup final, Raina came in ahead of Rahane, and played the best innings of the day, slamming 74 runs off just 56 balls to nitro-boost the Indian score, raising visions of a 320-330 target before his dismissal triggered a mini-collapse.

Not many can match the strike-power of an in-form Raina, but taking the call despite a lackluster showing by the southpaw of late, was undoubtedly a masterstroke. 

Dhoni’s masterstroke #4: Tearaway bowling: a leaf out of Imran’s book?

View image | gettyimages.com

Exactly a week before the monumental clash, in the warm-up game against Australia, India opened its bowling with Stuart Binny and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, both bowling gentle seam-up deliveries in the 120-125kmph range which hardly posed a threat to the Aussie openers.

Against Pakistan however, the bowlers seemed to be under specific instructions to bowl as quick as possible, not worrying too much about wides and no-balls, a theory made famous by the majestic former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan during the 1992 World Cup.

Umesh Yadav opened the  bowling with a wide which set the tone for the rest of the innings, which saw a total of 10 wides and a no-ball, a statistic which could have the experts wrinkling their noses at the indiscipline. From a cup-half-full viewpoint, the number, considered alongside the overall bowling display, was also an indicator of the quicks’ aggression  – both Yadav and Mohammed Shami bowled regularly in the 145-150kmph range; even the relatively slower Mohit Sharma was touching 140kmph.

There was no let up on the short stuff, seldom allowing the Pakistani batsmen to get on the front foot. Dhoni displayed no anguish and neither did he reprimand the bowlers when some of these deliveries sailed well clear of the batsmen to be called wides.

The agenda was clear – bowl fast and intimidate the batsmen. With the quicks picking up 8 wickets between them, the move, in tow with other strategic masterstrokes, saw India canter home in a one-sided contest.

Most incredible matches in World Cup history – England vs Ireland, 2011

  by  HikingArtist.com 

Everyone loves an underdog. In an adulation which has transcended boundaries of sport, movies, reality entertainment shows and more, these David vs Goliath battles tug at our heartstrings like nothing else, with a generous dollop of initial sympathy, which gradually builds into an overwhelming empathy and culminates in excessively strong feelings of joy or sorrow, based on how the story ends up for the David in question.

The greatest stage of the 50-over cricket game provides excellent scope for such skewed battles, with several instances of leviathan upsets by so-called minnows over their more fancied opponents. As the name suggests, a minnow often lures its unwitting prey into a trap, but the story I am about to recount here is one where a minnow develops shark-like features to batter its foe into submission before crunching it to bits.

Clash of the neighbours

When next-door European neighbours England and Ireland clashed in Game 15 of the 2011 World Cup on 2nd March 2011, at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru, not many expected David to trump Goliath.

Ireland had shown some promise with an impressive bowling display against higher-echelon minnows Bangladesh in their tournament opener, but England were coming off an outstanding display against favourites India, clearly in the ascendancy in the final stages of the match, despite chasing 338, before collapsing under the impact of a brilliant Zaheer Khan and a bit of hara-kiri to register an exciting tie.

The Irishmen were not expected to trouble them beyond the temporary minnow moments of glory, customary of most non-embarrassing clashes featuring the lesser nations.

Trott-ing away to glory, with impecca-Bell support

England won the toss and elected to bat on a belter of a wicket, a move soon vindicated by the excellent opening partnership between previous match’s almost-hero Andrew Strauss and quintessential bad-boy Kevin Pieterson, both of whom fell on either side of the team hundred.

Ireland’s joy was short lived, as Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell settled into a 167-run partnership, looking least bothered by whatever the bowlers dished out. In the process, ‘Test specialist’ Trott reached 1000 runs in One Day International (ODI) cricket in only his 21st innings, equalling the record set by famed ODI specialists, Viv Richards and this inning’s ancestor Pieterson.

Bell provided solid support as both men hurtled towards their respective hundreds, and a 350-400 looked very much on the cards.

A hole in the middle

Both Trott and Bell lost their wickets in a display of utter disdain for the bowling, the beneficiary on both occasions being soon-to-be second lead hero John Mooney. This was followed by a hole-in-the-middle implosion with Matt Prior, Paul Collingwood, Michael Yardy and Tim Bresnan departing in quick succession, without bothering the score-keepers too much.

In a rather rare phenomenon in cricket, England’s death batting woes returned to haunt them (the final five overs yielded just 33 runs) the second time in two games, and Mooney finished with a career-best 4 for 63.

England’s 327, though about 40-50 runs short of what they looked capable of achieving during the Trott-Bell partnership, still looked a mountain too high for Ireland to surpass.

minnowy start

In response, Ireland lost opening batman William Porterfield first ball to a nothing delivery from James Anderson. What followed was a struggle, with star batsman Ed Joyce trudging along at a strike rate of 50, and Paul Stirling chancing his arm with moderate success, with a bit of help from the sloppy Prior.

Graeme Swann came on to bowl in the first Powerplay, and gradually weaved his magic on the game, accounting for three quick wickets in the middle order. With Stirling falling to the sword earlier, half of Ireland’s side was back in the pavilion with the scoreboard reading 111.

The match had, till then, dedicatedly stuck to the standard minnow script – chasing a huge target, the underdogs, after suffering an early jolt, stick manfully to their task, eliciting a few words of praise, before being slowly outgunned and eventually obliterated.

However, a purple-haired marauder decided to throw a spanner in the works and engineer a slightly different script.

The Kevin carnage

“Sometimes Kevin gives you the impression that he is 100% determined not to just give it away. On this occasion his was just a carefree, relaxed attitude.” These words by Andrew White, Ireland’s most capped player who was dropped after the loss against Bangladesh, described Kevin O’Brien’s frame of mind when he went out to bat. Incidentally, they quite aptly captured what was to follow in the middle as well.

O’Brien began with a couple of sixes against England’s most successful bowler thus far, Swann, before cutting loose with the calmness of a highly trained sniper against the quicks, during the batting powerplay. The clean hitting was reminiscent of, but with superior technique, what an unknown Kieron Pollard displayed, playing for Trinidad & Tobago against New South Wales, in the group encounter of the inaugural edition of the Champions League T20 tournament.

O’Brien waltzed to the quickest century in World Cup history, off just 50 balls, and the match had turned on its head, with Ireland requiring 65 runs off the final ten overs for a memorable victory.

The support staff

Almost as significant was the contribution of O’Brien’s unsung mate in the 162-run 6th wicket partnership, Alex Cusack, whose 58-ball 47 paled before O’Brien’s in statistical terms, but the solidity of whom allowed the purple-haired Irishman to come out all guns blazing, while allowing him to catch his breath occasionally with a few magnificent strikes off his own.

Cusack’s final act of the day was perhaps his most heroic as well. With nine overs remaining and 56 runs yet to be knocked off, Cusack sacrificed his wicket after a misunderstanding over a non-existing single. The soldier had laid down his life so that his king (for that day at least) could continue to wage battle, and win the all-important war.

The dismissal brought out Ireland’s bowling champion of the day, Mooney, whose support role with the bat was to provide tremendous relief to a tiring O’Brien.

A memorable victory

Mooney was to the Irish chase, in the finishing moments, a shot of adrenalin into a well-worked but faltering heart. He hogged the strike, and combined the optimum mix of defence and attack to propel the team along towards a now very gettable target.

Like most great matches, this one was not bereft of last minute drama. With 12 runs required off the final two overs, O’Brien ran himself out, ending one of the most stunning innings in recent memory, the fruitfulness of which yet remained to be ascertained.

Given their lack of experience at the highest level, a panic attack may have been warranted, but as White recalls, when he ran out to the centre with drinks after the run-out, “The calmest people in the ground were the two batsmen. They knew exactly what they were trying to do. I asked John (Mooney) if he was happy with the way things were going. And he said, ‘Yes, all under control.’ This, when the rest of us were sitting on the edge of our seats.”

Mooney’s words of reassurance were not spoken lightly. New man Trent Johnston blazed the first delivery he received, a gentle full toss from Stuart Broad, to the extra-cover fence, and sensible batting off the remaining deliveries of the penultimate over saw Ireland require just 3 runs off the final 6 deliveries.

Leaving no space for last moment histrionics, Mooney clipped the first ball of the final over, bowled by Anderson, to the mid-wicket boundary for his country’s greatest victory ever.

As the man whipped off his helmet and emanated a warrior cry, the message resounded around the world: ‘Goliath was slain yet again; long live David’.

This article was first published in Sportskeeda: http://www.sportskeeda.com/cricket/most-incredible-matches-world-cup-history-england-vs-ireland-2011
1 2 3 5