Yes, there were wins against West Indies and Zimbabwe and, competitively, against Middlesex and Surrey, but Ireland's greatest cricketing achievement was in far-off Namibia in October 2005. Ireland became World Champions at first-class cricket at Associate Membership level of ICC. This would probably rank as the third level of World cricket.
Kenya were favourites going into the match. They had one-day status with ICC, had just come off a successful tour of Zimbabwe, had reached the Word Cup semi-final in 2003, and were hoping to be a Test playing nation very soon. Their ambitions were shattered in this match although one would not think so after the first day. Kenya won the toss and scored 401-4 in their 90 overs, as Ireland bowled badly. The match turned on the second evening when Ireland declared 88 runs behind. At this point, a minimum of 144 overs remained in the match, and Ireland were 10-8 behind on bonus points. Time had to be allowed to achieve the essentials of bowling Kenya out and scoring whatever runs were required in the fourth innings.
The thinking was that Kenya would try to bat Ireland out of the match. However, only four batting points were now available, at a score of 200, and Ireland could gain five bowling points if they could bowl out Kenya. Then bonus points would stand at 14-13 in Kenya's favour. Then Ireland's task would be to win on bonus points by scoring 75-0, 100-1, 125-2, etc in whatever time allowed on the third evening. These scores would allow Ireland to win by half a bonus point. It was all unnecessary! Kenya, 104-3 on the second evening, lost their last seven wickets for 52 runs in 28 overs on the third morning, leaving Ireland to make 245 to win in a minimum of 80 overs. With some ease Ireland reached the target in 66.5 overs and wore the mantle of Word Champions.
Only 12 players in Ireland's 13 man party were fit to play. Mooney's back problem ruled him out and he was replaced by Botha, now fit, and White replaced Thompson. These changes packed the batting aspect of the team as it was felt that the final would be a batsmen's match that could well be decided on first innings scores. This did not happen, although the pitch was another batsmen's wicket. It was even better than that used for the UAE match even if the odd ball still kept a little low, a factor which accounted for the two Kenyan century makers in the first innings, in their second innings. Ireland had played Kenya twice in Malaysia in the 1997 ICC Trophy, and once in an Emerging Nations Tournament in Zimbabwe in 2000, losing all three matches. Of those Kenyan teams six played in this match, S Tikolo, now captain, Modi, Obuya, then called Otieno, and M Suji, who played in all three, Odoyo, who played in the two in Malaysia and AO Suji who played in Zimbabwe. Gillespie was Ireland's only survivor from these three matches though McCallan played in Zimbabwe.
The toss was lost on a hot morning, although there was no sun as yet, with a slight breeze. McCoubrey and Johnston bowled to Obuya and Ouma. McCoubrey's first ball was a no-ball. Two more such followed as well as fours to cover and extra cover to Obuya. The over cost 13 runs. Johnston started with three maidens in his first four overs. Then, in the eighth over, came a run out. Botha replaced McCoubrey. Ouma played the fifth ball to Joyce at wide mid-on. Joyce had to dive to his right to stop the ball. Ouma called a run. Obuya refused. Joyce recovered quickly and his throw to O'Brien beat the returning Ouma. 25-1-8. T Suji was next and made
only 11 in a 60 run stand in 17 overs. Obuya launched an attack and hit seven fours in the space of five overs from Botha, Johnston and Armstrong who replaced Johnston for over 14. Armstrong began with two wides. Then Obuya hit three fours, the second of which took the score to 53. Armstrong stemmed the scoring rate, and he bowled five overs for 23. McCoubrey came back for Botha and his fourth ball saw Obuya dropped at gully by Botha when 43 and the total 65. This was an expensive miss. McCoubrey's next over brought two more no-balls and two fours to Obuya, the second of which took him to 52 out of 77 scored in 66 balls. McCallan, 23rd, and Johnston, 24th, took up the attack and maintained attacking fields. In Johnston's second over Suji slashed and Armstrong took the catch in front of his face. 85-2-11. Enter Tikolo, probably the best batsman in the world who does not play Test cricket. He did hit three fours but did not see much of the strike in this 47 run, 10 overs, stand with Obuya.
100 came up in over 30. Botha was now bowling again and in over 31 Johnston tried to stop an extra cover drive. He was 20 yards away, and fractured a finger which virtually put him out of the match. He retired, Thompson fielded and McCallan took over the captaincy. Lunch came after 33 overs at 124-2, Obuya 72 Tikolo 17. Botha bowled the first post lunch over and McCoubrey the second. Despite two more no-balls and a four to Tikolo a wicket fell. Obuya, now 72 including 14 fours in 107 balls, put his leg into a straight ball from McCoubrey and was lbw. 132-3-72. The time was now 1.06 p.m. The next wicket fell after tea. It was at 4.50 p.m. and two minutes later the innings closed at 401-4 in 89.5 overs, one ball less than the 90 overs permitted.
In between, in 55.3 overs, the two leading Kenyan batsmen Tikolo and Modi, a left-hander, put on 267 runs, a record stand for any wicket against Ireland. Modi faced 43 more balls than Tikolo but the latter scored 154 to Modi's 106 in the stand. 150 came up in over 39. Morgan was given a bowl, two overs, and in his second over Tikolo, who had just reached 50, gave short-leg a sharp chance. White and McCallan had long bowling stints but 200 was up in over 52. Johnston returned to the field to test his ability to bowl. He found he could not grip the ball. His over cost 18 runs and he retired again. After 58 overs a dust storm caused a few minutes delay. Then Modi got to 51 out of 260 in over 64 from 99 balls. Two overs later Tikolo hit a four off White to reach 101 out of 269 from only 104 balls. Tea came after 70 overs at 289-3, Tikolo 112, Modi 63.
300 was up in over 74 and Botha took the new ball for over 76, partnered by McCoubrey. Each bowled three overs and the six overs yielded 45 runs. Tikolo hit six fours in the six overs and Modi hit three. 350 came up in over 81, in which over Tikolo reached 150. Armstrong and McCallan were tried and then White but in a five over spell five more fours were hit. With a four off Armstrong in over 85 Modi reached 100 in 174 balls. On they went until, in the last possible over, the 90th, at 399 White caught and bowled Modi. His 106 came from 188 balls with 13 fours. He was the junior partner in the 267 run stand although he faced more balls in it than Tikolo, 188 balls to 145. Odoyo came in and faced two balls to bring up 400 and Kenya declared with one ball left.
Thiokol's innings was wonderful. 177 not out from only 170 balls and 27 fours. He mostly kept the ball on the ground with wonderful drives and pulls. Ireland used seven bowlers, three of whom, McCoubrey Johnston and White, took a wicket each. The average run rate was 4 ½ per over. In all 55 fours were scored, just over 50% of the runs in fours. McCallan was the least expensive at three runs per over. Johnston's rate was four per over but, due to his injury, he could only bowl 11 overs of the 90. Kenya now had eight bonus points to Ireland's two.
13 overs remained to be bowled in the 105 over day and these were, in fact, bowled by the scheduled close at 6 p.m. At 5:05 p.m. Joyce and Bray opened for Ireland to the quickish medium pace of M Suji and Odoyo. Bray took 14 off Odoyo's first two overs and 25 were scored in five overs, of which Bray made 18. Then, in over eight, Joyce was lbw to Odoyo. 27-1-5.
Morgan and Bray saw out the remaining five overs with Bray on 28 and Morgan yet to score. Ongondo and off spinner Tikolo tried a few overs before the close at which the score was 37-1. Odoyo in fact injured himself bowling before the close and Tikolo finished that over. Odoyo did not bowl again in the match.
Ongondo continued to bowl on the second morning partnered by M Suji. Early on Ongondo dropped a hard return catch from Morgan who was six and the score was 44. Morgan had more strike and was more aggressive. Bray only scored a single off the first 23 balls he faced today. 50 was up in over 19. Then Bray began to attack as Tikolo and Onyango, medium fast, came on to bowl. Bray was dropped at the wicket off Tikolo when 42 with the score on 77. He did not benefit. In Onyango's next over he swept a four and then, next ball, did not get over a drive and was caught low at extra cover. 82-2-46. 36 out of his 46 runs came in fours.
O'Brien, fresh from 176 against UAE two days previously, started with a four but watched while Morgan hit five fours, the last of which took him to 52 out of 129 in 94 balls. Tikolo and Onyango bowled for over an hour. Eventually Sheikh, slow left arm, replaced Onyango. The change worked. In his third over, the 49th, Morgan mistimed a cut off Sheikh and was caught at the wicket for a very well played 60 from 117 balls with nine fours. 148-3-60. Botha took six off the four remaining balls before lunch, taken at 154-3 in 49 overs. O'Brien was 29 and Botha was 6.
After lunch the pace increased. Ireland were 147 behind with 79 overs left in the day. O'Brien hit successive fours in over 50. Then, after only three runs in three overs, Botha hit Tikolo for a six and next over O'Brien did likewise to Sheikh. He came down the pitch to hit over mid-on. Next over O'Brien, with a leg-glanced four, moved to 52, from 90 balls, with the score on 188. 200 arrived in over 58. Then Onyango came back but his third over cost nine. Botha quickened his pace. He reached 50 with a single to mid-on at 247 in over 66, off 58 balls, and 250 came up in the next over. Suji came back but his four over spell cost 25 runs, 13 of them in his final over. Collins Obuya, who spent a season with Warwickshire, came on to bowl leg spin, belatedly, in over 67. He seemed to have had Botha missed at the wicket in his second over. Obuya and Tikolo bowled out the remaining overs before Ireland declared after 78.5 overs at 313-4. 45 runs came in the last 10 overs but only three fours were hit. O'Brien's century came in over 77 with a single to deep square leg. This followed his 176 against UAE three days previously. He is only the third Irish player to score centuries in successive innings. IJ Anderson who got two in one match and MA Masood were the other players to do this. When Botha was caught and bowled on a mispull the declaration came. O'Brien was 106 from 153 balls with a six and seven fours. Botha's 78 was off 108 balls with a six and eight fours. The stand of 165 came in just over 30 overs.
Kenya used seven bowlers. Tikolo bowled one third of the overs but had no wicket for 93. Onyango's 14 overs was the next in numbers to Tikolo's 25.3. The wicket was pluperfect for batting but Kenya's attack did not look up to their Test Match aspirations. The declaration coincided with the tea interval. It totally bemused the Kenyans. They did not understand it at all. Their first reaction was that Ireland were conceding the match! Then some thought the batsmen needed a drink while others thought it was just the tea interval. Kenya's coach, Mudassar Nazar, had to be told it was a declaration! In fairness to him he readily admitted it was a masterstroke when Ireland won the match.
A minimum of 39 overs remained in the day. Ireland had actually bowled 40.1 when a most ridiculous light decision favoured the batsmen. This from two Test Match Umpires. It came with 16 minutes to go. Ireland's expectations were that Kenya would be bowled out sometime on day three to allow Ireland to win on bonus points. As little as 20 or 25 overs would be required
providing wickets were not lost. As it worked out, reality was much better than expectation for Ireland.
M Suji had to open with K Obuya because regular opener Ouha had had been off the field but he was allowed to bat at Number three after the innings had lasted for an hour. Botha and McCoubrey bowled the first eight overs. Each batsmen had hit two fours and the score was 21. Armstrong replaced McCoubrey but Botha continued until 10 came off his seventh over. McCoubrey, changing ends, replaced Botha for over 16 and took the first wicket. Obuya cut at a ball which lifted slightly and was caught at the wicket. 41-1-14. Ouma joined Suji and only one run came in three overs. Armstrong bowled five overs for six and then, at the same end, Bray bowled his off spinners for 8 overs and 12 runs. 50 was up in over 20 but by over 30 it was only 23 more. There was then a spurt and Suji got to 51 out of 92 in over 24, off 116 balls. He got one more run. White had come on for Bray. The fifth ball of his second over had Suji caught at the wicket, and the following ball kept low, turned, and had the other Suji, T Suji, bowled. 25-3-0. Tikolo hit his first ball for four off the back foot, saying as he did so, "I can't see". He continued this umpire intimidation until the umpires gave way two overs later. With McCallan and White bowling it was a very remarkable light decision. The score was 104-3, Ouma 24, Tikolo 6.
Play on the third day began 15 minutes early, at 9.45 a.m., to compensate for the time lost to bad light on the second evening. The count for 105 overs would not begin until 10 a.m. Heavy rain soon after play on the second evening probably added a little juice to the pitch, which was only covered by tarpaulins. White had five balls to bowl to finish the 41st over. McCoubrey bowled the second over and White struck with the last ball of his next over. Ouma played back and was lbw to a ball that kept low and turned in a little. 108-4-25. Modi came in to join Tikolo. It was this pair that had the huge first innings stand. Modi started well. Johnston had come out to see if he could bowl. In his two overs Modi hit three fours, two in Johnston's second over to extra cover and mid-wicket. Johnston left the field again. McCoubrey replaced him and off his sixth ball Modi attempted a cut and was caught by O'Brien. 132-5-13. C Obuya was next but only 18 runs came in the next six overs. Then McCallan, now again acting captain, took White off. White had bowled eight overs today, 1-20. This was a surprise as White had three of the five wickets to date. McCallan was proved right, he took two wickets in the over. Tikolo stepped back to cut the fourth ball which kept low and bowled him fractionally before Tikolo also hit his wicket. 150-6-24. Within eight overs the two danger men were gone. It got better. Odoyo took a single first ball leaving Obuya to face McCallan's sixth ball. Obuya advanced and swept the ball upwards to deep square leg. McCoubrey, 10 yards in, turned and moved towards the boundary. The ball came across the front of his body as he moved. As it did so he jumped and caught it two-handed high in the air, a most brilliant catch. 151-7-13
Sheikh and Odoyo defended dourly for eight overs, four of them maidens, in which a two and three singles were scored. Botha replaced McCoubrey for over 62 and then the last three wickets fell to McCallan and Botha in 19 balls for no runs. McCallan got Odoyo with the last ball of over 65. Odoyo drove too soon and White caught him diving to his right at extra cover. 156-8-1. Sheikh played a maiden from Botha and Onyango was out to the first ball he faced giving McCallan wickets on successive balls, an over apart. Onyango had a big slog to a ball which turned. 156-9-0. Ongondo played at five balls. Then Botha took the 10th wicket with the last ball of over 68. He had Sheikh caught by O'Brien wide on the offside. It was O'Brien's fourth catch. In this 109 minute session, Kenya lost seven wickets for 52 runs in 27.5 overs. It was a stark contrast to their first innings batting form. Ireland used seven bowlers but there were four key bowlers. The fast men, McCoubrey and Botha, in 27 overs took 3-59. The two off spinners, McCallan and White, in 26 overs took 7-58. White began the rot by taking the second, third and fourth wickets in 20 balls for six runs. McCallan took the sixth, seventh, eight and ninth wickets in 28 balls for five runs. The Kenya score, at one time, stood at 150-5. 12 overs later they were
all out for 156. All the Irish wicket-takers had bowled very well with some help from a pitch which had sweated overnight.
A minimum of 80 overs remained for Ireland to score 245 to win. Bray and Joyce started at 11.46 a.m. with 34 minutes to go to lunch at 12.20 p.m. Ongondo and Onyango bowled seven overs between them before lunch and Tikolo bowled the last over, a maiden to Bray. Joyce hit five fours, two to long-on, one to long-off and two "pick-up" shots to mid-wicket. The lunch score was 28, Joyce 23, Bray five.
Onyango, changing ends, and Obuya, two overs, bowled immediately after lunch and Joyce gave a chance at the wicket off Onyango's sixth ball with no runs added. Then both batsmen hit two fours in successive overs. 50 was up in over at 13 and Tikolo soon returned for Obuya. On they went with the odd four, although two maidens were bowled, until, in over 20, Tikolo bowled Joyce who hit over the top of a floater. 83-1-48. Joyce was in great form hitting nine fours out of his 61 balls. His 48 took his season's aggregate to 546, at an average of 34.12. Morgan came in and put on 42 with Bray in just over 10 overs. Morgan faced 44 balls in the 62 ball stand. He made 22, saw 100 up in over 25, and was beginning to open up when he played back too much, squared up to Tikolo and was lbw. 125-2-22. O'Brien came in and saw Bray reach 51, out of 129, in over 22 with a sweep for two. A quiet spell followed as Tikolo and T Suji bowled long spells. In 10 overs only one four was hit and 150 was up in over 39.
Then, in over 41, Bray was out 11 minutes before tea. He played a poor shot at Suji with bat away from his body and was caught at gully who was about 30 yards away. 153-3-64. Bray faced 107 balls and hit eight fours. After a run of low scores in mid-season Bray finished with a sequence of 70-29-1-135-78-190-46-64. His season's tally of 722 is a new season aggregate record. It is 19 better than SG Smyth in 1998. Botha joined O'Brien and at tea, 43 overs, the score was 159-3, O'Brien 15, Botha yet to score. 86 more runs were needed.
Tikolo and T Suji continued after tea. In fact they bowled from over 27 to over 48. Then, at 173, there was a double change. Onyango and Sheikh came on. Botha took 10 runs off the former's second over. Then Sheikh bowled O'Brien, in over 52. O'Brien played forward down the wrong line. 195-4-27. White came in and in the remaining 15 overs they faced five bowlers but no more wickets fell as the 50 runs required came from 94 balls. A boundary by Botha sent up 200 in over 54. In this final stand Botha hit three fours. White hit two and, in over 60, hit Sheikh for a six so far over the mid-wicket wall that the ball was lost. With 13 overs and almost an hour in hand the Match was won and Ireland were World Champions. The match aggregate was 1115 runs for 22 wickets.
The cup was presented by Percy Sonn, South Africa, the incoming ICC Chairman. The ICC fell down in not providing mementos to the winning players. The players got a bottle of wine each, which, in fact, was provided by the Namibian Cricket Board. Ireland's White and McCallan were nominated as joint Men-of-the-Match, but only one plaque was provided! Kenya had to do without two leading bowlers in the second innings. M Suji and Odoyo were both injured and off the field. Tikolo again bowled more overs than anyone else, 23 in all, to take 2-71. In truth Kenya's bowling was nowhere near the hoped-for Test Match status.
As this game neared its end the format for the next Intercontinental Cup became known. There would be four teams in Ireland's area, the others being Scotland and Namibia, who would be played away, and United Arab Emirates, who would be played at home. The length of the matches would be increased to four days.