Bangalore, March 6: In Sunday March 6th's match against India, the Irish once again proved that they are no push-overs. They demonstrated a tenacity and grit unbecoming of a team slapped with the "minnows" tag. Indeed, they compensated for the lack of experience and skill with sheer determination and fighting verve.
Who would have thought that at 9/2, they could stave off a top-order collapse which is exactly what so many of the other small teams in this tournament so far have succumbed to? Yet surely and steadily enough, Niall O'Brien (46) and captain courageous William Porterfield (75) rallied their way back into the match with a 100-plus run partnership.
Then, would have anyone have imagined that after suffering a middle-order collapse as a destructive slow-left-armer in Yuvraj Singh held sway, that they would find the reserves to take their total over 200? Alex Cusack (24) and Trent Johnston (17) ensured that even with wickets falling regularly at the other end, they kept the runs flowing. In so doing, they perfectly spelled out the definition of a counter-attack.
Between innings, it felt like India would certainly romp home. Indeed, one got the feeling that India's top order would mangle and maraud the Irish bowlers and chase down their target with ease. But it was not to be. Irish captain Porterfield was shrewd with his field placements right from the get-go and that clarity of mind coupled with tight accuracy from Trent Johnston forced errors from Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir early on.
In fact, Gambhir was nothing short of dazed when he clipped a leg-stump ball from Johnson straight to short fine. "Where did he come from?", Gambhir seemed to say as he walked off bemused. In fact so tight was the Irish fielding that they were even able to stir up panic in the Indian camp which gave way to Virat Kohli's run-out around the 25th over.
Hats off to the turn and deception of the young George Dockrell as well. Just 18 years of age, the off-break bamboozled none other than the Little Master Sachin Tendulkar himself, to add possibly the most prized feather to his international cap. And then to follow up that crafty lbw with another one - Indian captain M S Dhoni this time - is a real credit to the bowler.
Finally, it took the pyro-technics of a Yusuf Pathan to strike the decisive last few blows for India in a match where till then, they were made to sweat for and steal their runs. The shamrocks will certainly be waving high in the wake of Ireland's spirited performance on Sunday and will give the Indians a lot to think about as they re-assess their own strengths and weaknesses.
Meanwhile, one can expect more unadulterated excitement as the Irish get set to take on the Windies, South Africa and the Netherlands. They certainly have the self-believe that they can pull off upsets. Now will they make it happen again?