Ireland hoping for serendipity
Ger Siggins (Irish Independent)
THE old Arab traders called this island Serendib, which is the origin of the word serendipity, or making happy accidents by chance. The Australian cricketers were certainly not banking on claiming two points in the ICC World Twenty20 against Ireland by a happy accident.
The Australian mentality doesn't brook losers. While a 'moral victory' or 'sporting defeat' might mean something in our part of the world, on the hill in Sydney it means only defeat -- and they are the world's worst losers. So when Ireland sneaked ahead of Australia on the world rankings last week, it hurt. And when their own media started jibing them, it hurt them so badly that they were in a sour mood before the tournament even started.
It was clear from the first over in the steam-bowl that is the R Premadasa Stadium that they had worked out detailed plans to combat the Irish batsmen -- which is something they wouldn't have previously considered.
"It wasn't that many years ago that Australian players took to the field against a minnow with grins and little preparation. Not anymore," says Jarrod Kimber, an Australian writer with Cricinfo. "They played Ireland the way they play anyone, with aggression."
Ed Joyce (pictured) admits Ireland were taken a little by surprise at the verbal aggression in the Aussie approach, but took it as a sign of Irish cricket's progress. "They recognise we're a good side, and we took the comments as a back-handed compliment. They made sure we realised when we were batting that it was 11 against two. There was nothing too nasty, and after the game we shook hands which is good cricket."
It's Joyce's first visit to the island in a long professional career, and he admitted conditions are as difficult as he has come across.
"I've never batted in hotter weather than in one of the warm-up games, and it was very humid too. I don't usually have a problem with sweat but here I have to change my gloves every couple of overs."
He was disappointed to get out for 16, having hit three nice fours. "I hadn't felt that good batting against a top-class attack in a long time. I was hitting it well but as we had been losing wickets I was caught a bit in two minds whether to hit boundaries or work the strike around. And in Twenty20 if you're not 100 per cent committed either way you make mistakes.
"The ball I got out to I could have hit anywhere. I wasn't sure whether to cart it back over the bowler's head or push it to extra cover, so I got caught between the two and chipped it to mid-off."
Even in defeat, however, Joyce was heartened by the batsmen's response. "Five or ten years ago, if we were 30-4 we would have been all out for 70. But it was a special
effort to get up to 123, with 90 off the last 12 overs. The bowlers went chasing wickets and that meant the runs flowed."
Ireland must win tomorrow against West Indies to remain in the competition, but facing the supreme Twenty20 batsman in Chris Gayle, they will need to be at their best. "It's now realistic that we can compete with the world's best teams", said Joyce. "If we play anyone in a three-game series we should expect to win at least one."
Ireland's senior batsman was 34 yesterday, and Joyce will be keen to celebrate with another top scalp. With the game under lights Ireland will be spared the broiling sun, but to reach the second phase of this event they'll need to discover a lot of "happy accidents" along the way too.
Ireland v West Indies, Colombo
3.0pm Irish time (live on Sky Sports)