Gary Wilson (News Letter)
I reckon there are a few weary bones as we wake today. Would you change it for the world though? Maybe for the World Cup!
After Sundays performance against Hong Kong we now have the chance. This is now the business end of the competition, the time where the best sides shine. I'm sure it's not just ourselves that see it that way, no doubt the likes of Afghanistan and the Netherlands will be thinking the same.
I wouldn't be surprised though if the first thing that the teams finishing in second and third spots in their respective groups looked at was if they were able to avoid Ireland should they make it to the semi-final.
After a touch of confusion and originally some incorrect information, it came to pass that in our semi we would be playing the winners of the UAE v Holland. Both teams that we have beaten (if not well) on our trip thus far. Who do we want?
The old cliche of we'll take either springs to mind. They both have different strengths. UAE, in my opinion have a superior bowling line up, while the Dutch have an explosive batting unit, so it really is a toss up. I still say that if we play OUR best game then no one will live with us.
Again it's been pleasing to get this far without everything clicking in one game. I do believe we are getting closer however, the Hong Kong game saw our two world class players, Paul Stirling and Kevin O'brien take the opposition apart with the bat. The first time in the tournament that they have really clicked..... Not that they had done too badly up until this game.
T20 cricket is funny in a way because any one player on an opposition side can take the game away from you if it's their day. A cliche I am all too familiar with, as anyone who watched the domestic t20 in England this year will be aware, when David Willey from Northants took our Surrey side apart with a quick fire 80, 4 wickets in his spell, a run out and two catches. I still haven't asked him if he did the lottery that night!
T20 is that sort of game though, if its one person's day, they can destroy you. That's not to say that the better teams wont win more often than not, without doubt the best teams do that. It's also important to get into a winning habit.
If you look at how we won this tournament two years ago, it almost played in to our hands that we had to play more games to get to the final and qualify. Once we lost that first game against Namibia we had to play three extra matches after the group stages, compared to Afghanistan's one. This time of course we are on the other side of the equation, with four days away from tournament cricket. Which, while the break is much welcomed, can have the negative effects I just explained.
Given the choice though, where would we rather be? Having already qualified for a World Cup or having to play two extra games to do so? The answer of course is obvious. The point I'm merely trying to make is that when you get on a roll, you would rather keep playing and such a big break from competition isn't ideal.
The Ashes started last week, so I guess it would be wrong not to comment on such a big event in the cricket calendar. What a bang it started with as well, even before the first ball was bowled I don't think I can ever remember more tit for tat, from players, supporters and media.... It was coming from all angles!
That is top level test cricket and where Ireland want to be. One thing that I just long for is the day that I log on to facebook or twitter and see more people from back home talking about the Irish cricket team than the English cricket team. It's something I've always believed in, for example I would never have grown up supporting England in a test match rugby game against the Wallabies or the All Black's. Then again up until 10 years ago many of Ireland's cricket games were playing against the likes of the MCC and the Free Foresters. Similar to us losing our players to England, maybe we have to be at the top table before that happens.
On a separate note, all of the above takes a little less meaning when you see what Jonathon Trott is going through and of course I wouldn't be alone in wishing him the speediest of recoveries. It goes to show you just how hard top level sport can be. I once heard Tim Ambrose describe the feeling of his depression as "waiting to go into bat intensified by a hundred" anyone who has ever waited to go in to bat in a high pressure game or situation will know how tough that sounds.
Spare a thought too, for our rugby counterparts who came within 27 seconds of recording their most famous victory ever against the previously unbeaten All Blacks!
We sat in the hotel adjacent to ours, watching and willing the second half go to go faster, it just wasn't quite to be and you could see at the end of the game what it meant to our lads. What an achievement though by the AB's to go through a full season undefeated.