There’s little doubt that you’ll see enough lazy cliches about the luck of the Irish tomorrow. Only, as at Sabina Park on St. Patrick’s Day in 2007, there was little luck to the manner in which Ireland outthought and outperformed a more recognised side. It was Pakistan then, and Bangladesh today, and both could have no complaints. Some of these Irish boys can really play, and you can only wonder how competitive they might have been with both Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan, poached by the English in recent times.
In Jamaica, it was the metronomic bowling of Andre Botha that helped decimate Pakistan, even as delirious fans dressed up as leprechauns danced to Cotton Eye Joe and Molly Malone. Here, it was another experienced pro with foreign roots, Trent Johnston, that did the damage, taking 3 for 20 in a sterling spell. And when they batted, Niall O’Brien, whose 72 spearheaded the chase at Sabina Park, was outstanding once again, careering to 40 from 25 balls. Another O’Brien, brother Kevin, finished things off with some tremendous blows down the ground.
Bangladesh were awful. They showed several hints of promise against India, but confronted by Ireland, they were a rabble, as they had been at Barbados in 2007. Most of the batsmen got starts but apart from Mashrafe Mortaza who lashed out at the end, not one man produced an innings of substance. Mohammad Ashraful’s dismissal stretched the bounds of credulity. Having been reprieved once while trying to run the ball down to third man, he tried it again. This time, first slip wasn’t in Christmas-present mood.
With the ball, they were little better. The spinners had given them a route back into the game but expensive overs from Rubel Hossain and Shakib Al Hasan ended the game well before time. Once again, Ashraful’s decision to bowl Rubel towards the end of an innings was questionable, as was his choice not to bowl the impressive Shakib in a four-over burst when the run rate was climbing rapidly.
Given his tendency to bat so irresponsibly, perhaps it’s time that Bangladesh looked to a new leader. Like Aravinda de Silva, another disaster as captain, Ashraful could yet thrive as a specialist batsman. My pick would be Shakib, who has the best temperament among the young players. If he’s given the time to build a team as Graeme Smith was by South Africa, Bangladesh may yet emerge stronger from this debacle. For Ireland, the adventure continues. If you do use the word ‘luck’, just remember to stick a P in front of it. That’s what they’re all about.