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Match Report
Richard Bullick

Lightning didn't strike twice for Ireland in Bangalore but William Porterfield's team backed up their wonderful win over England with a proud performance against hosts India in another memorable match which underlined once again to the ICC and everyone else that they fully belong on the biggest stage. The capacity crowd at the Chinnaswamy Stadium got the result that they demanded and the world expected but the impertinent, inspired Irish managed to turn down the deafening din for prolonged periods - initially in bouncing back from losing two very early wickets with a century stand for the third and later when chipping away at India's revered batting line-up in spite of the openers striking a boundary apiece in the first three balls as they commenced the chase of a seemingly inadequate 208 for victory.

In the end, India won with four overs to spare and five wickets still standing thanks mainly to a steady stand from becalmed big-hitters Yuvraj Singh and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni which - by their standards - ground out 67 runs in almost 17 overs. It wasn't the sort of vintage strokeplay that their fans are used to in the land of the IPL, but by that stage so-called minnows Ireland had more than earned the respect of their illustrious opponents. When wicket-keeper Dhoni finally fell to teenage spinner George Dockrell off the first ball of the 41st over, which India had entered needing 41 runs from the last 10, Irish supporters sensed one last sniff of opportunity but the flicker was brutally extinguished by master-blaster Yusuf Pathan. It had been another dream day for the 18-year-old slow-left-armer who had earlier claimed the prized scalp of the world's most prolific batsman of all time, Sachin Tendulkar, and must have been thrilled to add that of India's superstar skipper. But Pathan thrashed two sixes from the final three balls of the over to take the game away again - this time decisively - on an evening that Ireland stood tall against the world's biggest cricketing country.

Showing impeccable timing, and facilitated by Pathan's restraint, the uncharacteristically patient Yuvraj reached his 50 by hitting only his third boundary and then strolling a single next ball to bring up the milestone - becoming the first man ever to take five wickets and score a half-century in a World Cup match - before his partner struck the winning blow by hitting the last ball of that 46th over to the boundary. This team isn't about gallant defeats anymore but this time there should be no real regrets about being beaten, unlike in their tournament opener against Bangladesh where they will justifiably feel that they underachieved in failing to chase down 206, albeit against an ICC full member. This time they can reflect with justifiable pride on taking tournament favourites India into the final five overs and not losing by more than five wickets.

However, hungry Ireland will reflect on one or two turning points - including a couple of half chances in the field - and their greatest regrets will be the run-out of Niall O'Brien to break that superb partnership of 113 for the third wicket, after which the underdogs' innings fell away, and the knee injury which meant that the talismanic Trent Johnston was able to bowl only half his allotted overs. The veteran ex-captain had bowled brilliantly to take two early Indian wickets and his absence was a big blow to his successor Porterfield. As always, the Ireland captain was proactive and made no fewer than 18 bowling changes but, with wickets key and run-rate not an issue for India, he was forced to go for broke and by the 45-over mark his best bowlers on the day were bowled out so there would have been little left for the death even if Pathan hadn't hit those lusty blows which finally hurried the hosts to their win. With Andre Botha still out injured, Porterfield had to turn to John Mooney to bowl only his second over in the 46th and his option for the other end would have been Alex Cusack - who hasn't been as effective as hoped here - or Kevin O'Brien, who had earlier been given his first over of the tournament.

India had also saved their powerplay for the final five overs so Yuvraj and Dhoni would never have worried about run-rate as they bided their time against big Boyd Rankin, who really rose to the occasion in Johnston's absence. His opening three overs went for 16 runs but his remaining seven a mere 18 and a wicket or two wouldn't have flattered him. Before Pathan's explosion, Dockrell had gone for only 34 in nine overs spread across four spells while opening batsman Paul Stirling again impressed with his off-breaks and, as against England, he sent down a full allocation of 10 overs for 45 runs - from five spells in his case as Porterfield constantly switched his bowlers. The third slow bowler, Andrew White, contributed five overs for 23 to atone somewhat for another disappointing innings on his return to the team but the captain would have loved to have had Johnston or Botha to call on at various stages.

Ireland's hundred had actually come up an over sooner and with one less wicket down as their second wicket stand started earlier and lasted longer than the Indian equivalent and the men in green were 118 for two at the mid-point of their innings compared to the hosts' 107 for four in reply, but the big difference between the teams was the way sixth bowler Yuvraj ran through the Irish order to finish with five for 31. It was an heroic performance in the field but Ireland really needed a few more runs to work with and their position would undoubtedly have been better but for the wasteful way in which the O'Brien-Porterfield partnership had ended earlier as the captain called a sharp single into the covers and the non-striker failed to make his ground in time. Those two had steadied the ship superbly after India's high-class seamer Zaheer Khan took two wickets in his first two overs to really ignite the Bangalore roar of some 40,000 fanatical spectators after Dhoni had called correctly at the toss - Porterfield completing his hat-trick of blanks in this tournament - and, slightly surprisingly, inserted Ireland.


Dhoni's decision to bowl first was quickly vindicated as Zaheer proved too hot for Ireland's top order to handle, claiming a wicket in each of his first two overs to quickly bring the tournament's upstarts back to earth with a bump. Having perished to the first ball of the innings against England, captain Porterfield was confronted with immediate movement from Zaheer, dabbling dangerous before getting off strike when he nicked the third delivery to Yusuf Pathan at second slip who couldn't hold on at either the first or second attempt. That brought young Paul Stirling down to face the music and he was to suffer the same fate his opening partner had experienced last time out - a golden duck as he was beaten all ends up by a textbook ball from Zaheer which came back late and bowled the Middlesex man through the gate. The 20-year-old owes more to a great eye than fancy footwork but it was a very difficult delivery to have to deal with first up with the din deafening and the nerves jangling.

At least, unlike England earlier in the day, Ireland didn't lose two wickets in the opening over as Ed Joyce survived the last two ball without alarm but the man who has been a county professional for a decade didn't last long. Having slashed the second ball of Zaheer's second over for four through the slips, the Sussex star anticipated away movement again next ball but it came back and took his inside edge en route to Dhoni. In between those two dismissals in consecutive Zaheer overs, Porterfield had hit the first boundary of the day, driving Munaf Patel confidently through the covers for four off the front foot but been asked some searching questions too as the other Indian opening bowler got into the groove. Bangalore has been a batsman's paradise in the past week but the testing bowling and those early wickets understandably restricted Ireland's run-rate during the mandatory power-play period. Dhoni immediately replaced Munaf with secondary spinner Yusuf Pathan and ominously - considering that there were superior slow bowlers to come - he quickly found some turn to start with a maiden.

After a maiden from Zaheer, the batsmen milked four from Pathan's second and then the skipper made all Irish fans feel a bit better by pulling the opening bowler emphatically to the boundary and Niall O'Brien brought up his 1000 ODI runs for Ireland - the third player to reach that landmark, joining his brother Kevin and captain Porterfield - by hammering him through the covers for four in the fifth and final over of his opening spell. India's most experienced spinner Harbhajan Singh had replaced Pathan at the pavilion end and he conceeded only a single apiece from his first two overs as Ireland, in cautious rebuilding mode, reached 27 for two after 10. The hosts took the bowling powerplay and it was to cost 20 runs from the five overs as the experieced pair accumulated against Munaf - in a second spell of two overs - Harbhajan and Pathan.

Ireland's 50 came up in the 16th over before a little purple patch which saw seven come from the 17th and then leg-spinner Piyush Chawla went for 15 in his first over thanks mainly to a no-ball which went for four followed by Porterfield putting the resulting free hit into the stands for the World Cup's 100th six. That helped Ireland to 73 for two off 18 at drinks and, as the batsmen continued to milk the spinners, the second 10 overs of the innings yielded a very respectable 55 runs for no loss. Evidence of the Irish acceleration was that, just as twice as many runs had come in the second 10 overs compared to the first. Likewise, while it took 16 overs to bring up the first 50, the second arrived off the last ball of the 23rd over - which went for 10 runs. A glorious cover drive for four off Chawla took Porterfield to his half-century at the start of the 24th over and the hundred partnership, Ireland's first for the third wicket in ODIs, followed a few balls later - fittingly from a no-ball as the Indian effort was starting to look a little ragged. Plundering 28 from three overs lifted Ireland to 118 for two at the mid-point of their innings, prompting the introduction to the attack of a fourth slow bowler in Yuvraj Singh, but it took a run out to end this extremely productive partnership.

Disaster struck in the 27th over as an attempted single into the covers resulted in Kohli's return giving Dhoni time to break the wicket with non-striker O'Brien short of his ground and out four short of what would have been a deserved half-century for the combative wicket-keeper. Porterfield and O'Brien are hard runners between the wickets but this time there really wasn't a run there and you feared the wasted wicket would undo much of the earlier good work and invite India's spinners to take back the ascendancy. And so it proved as White was unable to take the opportunity offered by his recall to the team or make amends for his surprising struggle against spin in Ireland's opening match against Bangladesh. Slotted in again at No 5 - where he had batted against Bangladesh and the man he replaced today, Gary Wilson, had appeared against England - rather than dropping down to No 7 behind last Wednesday's heroes Kevin O'Brien and Cusack, in whatever order, White lasted only 10 balls before falling to Yuvraj for five.

His departure, snaffled by Dhoni off the outside edge, brought to the wicket one Kevin O'Brien with the crowd and watching world wondering whether he could somehow provide an encore to those extraordinary exploits against England. Just as the day was set up for Ireland to be brought back down to earth, likewise the smart money was on O'Brien going cheaply - such is the nature of life - but if he could come off, Ireland could certainly apply the rule of thumb of expecting to double their 30 over tally of 131 runs. But big Kev didn't last long as, after hitting what was to prove his sole boundary, he tapped the ball back to Yuvraj for an easy return catch and a tame dismissal with only nine runs to his name. Porterfield fell for a fine 75 off 104 balls to the first ball after drinks, slamming Yuvraj into the hands of his namesake Harbhajan Singh at cover and a review couldn't save Mooney from falling leg before for five with Cusack controversially following for a brisk 24 when the on-field umpire was over-ruled on an lbw adjudication even though the batsman was well down the pitch and out of HawkEye's reliable range. Dockrell went to a great catch by Dhoni off Zaheer but Johnston's useful 17 before being the last wicket to fall - with 13 balls left unused - got Ireland past the 200 mark.

When Indian dasher Virender Sehwag and the legendary Tendulkar each bagged boundaries off their first ball faced in taking nine runs off the first half of Rankin's opening over, the target looked even more inadequate but - as he has done so often - Johnston soon struck a blow for the Irish cause. Off his very first ball the former captain caught and bowled Sehwag as the opener tried to turn to leg and got a leading edge - sparking scenes reminiscent of the Caribbean in 2007 as Johnston performed his famed "chicken dance'! Every team is desperate to get the destructive Sehwag early and this was a much-needed dismissal if Ireland were to prolong the game never mind have half a chance of making it interesting. The first run Johnston conceeded came off the last ball of the over and Rankin responded by keeping India down to three from his second over before both opening bowlers gave away six apiece from their next to leave it 24 for one off five - a very sedate start by Indian standards.

It got better for Ireland when Gautam Gambhir turned Johnston round the corner into the hands of Cusack without addition to the total and the bowler completed a wicket maiden before Porterfield introduced Dockrell for the seventh over to continue the trend of spinners being brought on early in this tournament. The master Tendulkar despatched the teenager's nicely flighted first ball through the covers for four but Dockrell, mature beyond his years, didn't panic and neither did his 20-year-old spin twin Stirling when a similar fate befell him a little later. As with Ireland, India's third wicket pair prospered, in their case in a stand worth 63 before Dockrell trapped Tendulkar in front and when Kohli was run out three overs later for 34 - a bad call being the one blemish on Yuvraj's day - the door seemed slightly ajar for Phil Simmons' side at 100 for four. It wasn't to be but they were far from outclassed and showed characteristic resolve in passing this latest test of temperament and ability with flying colours.