The 2008 Under 19 World Cup saw Ireland play in the 16-team tournament, joined by fellow Associates Bermuda, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Namibia, and hosts Malaysia. The competition ran from February 17th to March 2nd in and around the capital Kuala Lumpur.
The Irish were placed in Group D alongside England, Bangladesh and Bermuda, with leg-spinner Greg Thompson – playing in his third tournament – skippering the side, which was coached by Brian O’Rourke and managed by Brian Walsh.
Ireland faced a strong England side in their first group game and found it tough going in seam friendly conditions as they made just 109, with Chris Dougherty top scoring with 34. There were three wickets apiece for Steve Finn and James Harris, while Chris Woakes picked up two. The modest total proved no obstacle for England who raced to a ten-wicket win with Ben Godleman and James Taylor in the runs.
In the other group opener Bangladesh showed their class as they powered to a 178-run win against Bermuda, and they proved equally as sharp in their clash with Ireland. Once again the batters struggled, making just 123 with James Shannon top scoring with 31. Mahmudal Hasan took 4 for 17 for the Asians. Ashraful Hossain hit 14 boundaries in an undefeated 71 as they romped to an eight-wicket win – consolation wickets for Andy Britton and James Hall.
England again raced to a ten wicket win after they skittled Bermuda for just 55, to set up a group decider with Bangladesh. It looked as if it would be a routine win for the English as James Harris took five wickets to reduce them to 49 for 7, but Bangladesh recovered to post 139 Suhrawadi Shuvo* making 56 not out. England then went from 113 for 4 to 126 all out to complete an amazing comeback win.
Meanwhile Ireland turned in a bitterly disappointing display to lose to Bermuda to finish bottom of the pile. A lethargic bowling and fielding effort allowed the Americas side to post 221 for 9, with Rodney Trott and Malachi Jones both making fifties. All seemed well as 70 from Chris Dougherty had Ireland on 133 for 2, but with the required rate creeping up they imploded, five wickets for Chris Douglas seeing them fall 20 runs adrift.
In the other groups, Sri Lanka and an Australian side including Steve Smith, the late Phil Hughes, Josh Hazelwood and James Pattinson emerged from Group C. In Group B, tournament favourites India – skippered by no other than Virat Kohli – qualified for the quarter-finals along with South Africa, who included two players who would become familiar to Irish fans in Obus Pienaar and Pieter Malan. Another player to subsequently ply his trade in Ireland was in charge of Pakistan – Imad Wasim – helped Pakistan win Group A, ahead of New Zealand who had in their ranks Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Kane Williamson.
For the Irish it was the Plate competition and classification matches, and they started off with a clash in Johor Boru against West Indies. Despite a slightly improved display, they still lost by seven wickets. James Hall top scored with 45, while Shane Getkate (21) and James Shannon (20) chipped in as they posted 154. Kieran Powell hit 50 as the West Indies chased it down easily.
That meant the Irish now had a chance for revenge as they once again faced Bermuda, and they finally came good with a much improved performance. A third wicket stand of 137 between top scorer James Hall (75) and Paul Stirling (59) propelled the Irish to 236 for 9. Greg Thompson then took five wickets as Bermuda were dismissed for 167 – despite another significant stand between Trott and Jones.
Thompson’s haul meant he become the joint leading wicket taker in U19 World Cup history – level with Australian Moises Henriques on 27. They have since been overtaken by Zimbawean Wesley Madhevere who has 28.
The win meant the Irish faced Zimbabwe in the 13th-14th place classification match, and they continued their late run with another convincing display.
A rain affected contest saw Andy Britton take 4 for 14 as Zimbabwe limped to 99 for 9 in their 27 overs – two wickets too for Shane Getkate and James Hall, who then top scored with 32 in a routine chase, as the Irish won by six wickets at a canter.
In the main event, Ali Asad’s unbeaten 63 saw Pakistan progress to the last four, where they would meet South Africa, 201 run winners over Bangladesh, after Wayne Parnell’s 6 for 8 saw them bowled out for 41. India had little trouble accounting for England, chasing 146 to win by seven wickets, where they would face New Zealand, victors against Sri Lanka with three wickets apiece from Tim Southee and Nick Beard.
In the semi-finals South Africa proved much too strong for Pakistan – 50s from Rossouw, JT Smuts and Vandiar seeing them make 260 for 8, with Pakistan only managing 153. India duly joined them in the decider after edging out New Zealand in a tense DL chase, Goswami’s 53 getting them over the line.
The final was another tense rain-affected affair and it seemed as if South Africa would prevail when their adjusted target in the chase was 116 in 25 overs. However, India’s bowling unit prevailed as they restricted them to 103 for 8 – winning by 12 runs.
The 13th place for the Irish was about par for the course as far as they were concerned, overcoming a poor start to finish strongly. Finances were as always tight, meaning a distinct lack of match preparation. The Irish squad would see ten players capped at senior level, including current skipper Andrew Balbirnie.