Good morning and welcome to Doritos Lord’s for the World Cup final of 2031. It’s been the shortest, most gripping tournament in years thanks to the novel format with 32 nations lining up in groups of four before the knockout rounds.
Sadly for Ravi Shastri, the ICC President, his beloved India were eliminated in the Round of 16 by Denmark, but we have two worthy finalists here today in hosts England and neighbours Ireland.
I’ve been writing about Irish cricket since 1984 and can safely say this is the biggest day it has ever seen. President Imelda May, is here, and Taoiseach Neale Richmond and half his cabinet has just arrived from Downing Street after all-night talks with prime minister Jo Swinson about Britain’s application to rejoin the EU.
And the news from the middle is that match referee David Warner has tossed and Ireland captain Harry Tector has called correctly. Of course, the other captain, Jack Carson, follows in the great English tradition of needing an Irishman to lead them to their greatest victories, such as the Duke of Wellington (Waterloo), General Montgomery (El Alamein), Eoin Morgan (World Cup 2019) and Declan Rice (World Cup 2030).
Carson, from Waringstown, Co Armagh, left Ireland to join Sussex more than a decade ago and has been a dynamic captain of England for three years now.
Tector has opted to bat and sends his elder brother, Jack, and Oliver Metcalfe out to face the new pink ball. The senior Tector is currently the leading scorer in the tournament on the back of his World Cup record 241 against Germany in the group phase.
The pair go after the England bowlers from the start and the 50 is raised in the seventh over with a six pulled into the LHW Grandstand by Tector where it is held by a fan in an Ireland shirt. The camera zooms in on the catcher, long-serving Leinster Lightning manager Mark Jones who wears a huge grin and a shirt indelibly stained by Guinness.
The batsmen call for a drink and out rushes the 12th man, Robert O’Brien, whose uncles and grandfather were distinguished former internationals. The producer zooms in on a corporate box where his Uncle Niall is holding forth while checking his positioning for the camera angles. As he lifts a glass of bubbly he looks every inch the man who has just burst into the Sunday Times Rich List top ten after selling Nobcom, his communications company, to a Dubai conglomerate.
Metcalfe is out soon after, bringing Nathan McGuire of Ardmore to the wicket. He departs quickly and is replaced by the senior figure of the side, Phoenix legend James McCollum. He and Tector are both godsons of former Ireland captain Alan Lewis, here commentating for RTÉ alongside the newly-appointed head of sport John Kenny.
McCollum plays some of his trademark drives before he perishes to a loose shot off his legs for 22 but Ireland are well-set on 138 for 3 off 24 overs. Tector moves serenely through the nineties, getting reassurance from his other brother, Tim, who hit his first ball straight into the pavilion.
Jack raises his century and waves to the crowd, but the emotion of the moment gets to him and he falls next ball. That brings in Neil Rock, the powerful Muckamore wicket-keeper batsman who keeps Tim company in an increasingly-aggressive partnership. They both fall at 262-6 with seven overs remaining, bringing in Harry Tector and Shwaiz Atif, the young star of Adamstown’s first senior league title back in 2030. They take the score past 300 and Gavin Hoey and Mitchel Thompson ensure England will have to score 328 – coincidentally the same target they set Ireland in Bangalore 20 years ago.
During the interval I bump into Warren Deutrom, the former chief executive of Cricket Ireland whose vision paved the way for this great achievement. Deutrom was a risk-taker, fond of using the phrase “we’ve bet the house” in advance of marquee games back in the days before the national stadium was built when temporary seating had to be hired.
His decision to put the entire ICC funding cheque of $5m – and his house – on Ireland beating Pakistan in a Sharjah tri-series paid off handsomely. The $40m winnings enabled Cricket Ireland to build the national stadium, although Deutrom himself was hit by a life ban by ICC. He was consoled that the 8/1 he got on his own house enabled him to move to an estate on 300 acres in County Meath.
The Ireland opening bowler, David Delany, is no longer the express train that put the heart crossways in Steve Smith in the famous win in the national stadium’s inaugural Test at Port Hotel Bready, back in 2024. These days his pace is more 8.10am to Maynooth, but he’s still a wily operator and soon reduces England to 14-3.
With back up from spinners Thompson, Hoey and Harry Tector, the hosts never get going and by the 25-over mark are struggling at 111-5. Carson does his best to rally his troops, leading from the front with 113, but England are never near the rate required – the fact that they now play 50-overs (or Three Hundred as the ECB insists they call it) only in international tournaments means they are at sea in a chase – and are bowled out for 263 in the 48th over.
The huge Irish support makes the trophy presentation a riot of green, although there was a small delay as a former Sports Minister tries to take his place on the podium and is led away. The speeches over, Harry Tector lifts the ICC World Cup to the sky amid a huge roar from the crowd as Arlene Foster, the Tánaiste, waves the tricolour in sheer delight…