Irish cricket coach Pete Johnston’s WC Diary

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Updated: March 4, 2011

It’s the day after one of the best days of our lives, one of the best games of cricket and one of the best innings you will ever see!

Two years ago, a superb bit of fielding by an Irish man playing for England denied what would have been a famous victory for Ireland against their old enemy. On that day, Eoin Morgan entered the field as a substitute fielder in what seemed a tactical move that saw England claw back a game that should have been ours, indeed only he could have jumped and palmed a ball back into the field that seemed destined for six off Trent Johnston’s bat. Last year, we restricted the eventual T20 World Cup winners to 120, only for rain to intervene and save there blushes and potentially an early exit. This time round, I felt it would be third time lucky and when we restricted them to well below 350 runs on one of the best wickets you will ever see, I firmly believed we could chase the runs down.

We have some great game plans for combating England, and while Pietersen, Bell and Trott batted brilliantly, we fought back hard in the last 10 overs, attacked the stumps, varied our pace and lengths and fielded out of our skins. While spinner George Dockrell stole the lime light in the last game, this time it was Paul Stirling who would weave a very economical spell with his slippery off spin. While work horse John Mooney picked up a career best 4 wickets and the ever reliable consistent and experienced Trent Johnston 2. It was extremely pleasing to get the death overs right, as it is an area we had highlighted for improvement.

William Porterfield was very unfortunate playing onto a wide Yorker in the first over, but the destructive Paul Stirling took up the attack and played some fine shots in his 32 as he and Ed Joyce formed a good partnership. I’ve no doubt that ‘Stirlo’ will go onto get some big scores in this tournament. Niall O’Brien looks at his very best again and looked fully in control before Swann’s variation in pace and flight drew him into a slog sweep which he missed and was bowled. 103 for 3 then became 111 for 5 as Wilson and Joyce went. Things looked as though they were slipping away, however not for the first time Kevin O’Brien had other ideas.

O’Brien and Alex Cusack then put on 50 and took the score up to 161, a quick look at the stats showed us that we were only 10 runs behind what England had been at that stage, although we had more wickets down, suddenly it was game on again. The partnership went on and on, Cusack scoring at a healthy run a ball and O’Brien twice that with some monster 6’s, bringing up the fastest hundred in the history of the World Cup. England may have dropped a few difficult chances, but you make your own luck in cricket. Kevin looked as though he was never getting out, however he was eventually run out and the 100 + partnership came to an end. In the end John Mooney , Alex Cusack and Trent Johnston would see us home, John hitting the winning runs in the last over.

John also played a fine innings and is on his way to becoming one of the best number 7 or 8 batsmen in World Cricket. Cue pandemonium as he hit the winning runs, I ran forward and grabbed Roy our team manager, jumping up and down, before running back to Gary Wilson and then we were all in a huddle jumping for joy on the balcony. I feared I had forgotten to end the video capture on the laptop and when I went back to rectify my mistake, I was so overcome by emotion that I couldn’t even remember where he had hit the ball. For the record it was all along the ground through midwicket.

We then went and shook hands and gathered for the post match presentations, before the celebrations continued in the dressing rooms for the loudest rendition of Ireland’s Call I have ever heard us sing, with a few cold Kingfishers pulled out from the bottom of the ice baths too. It can’t have been pleasant for the England boys who were sharing a viewing balcony with us at the cozy old Bangalore stadium.

However they took it well and a few of them even joined in the celebrations back at the hotel by having a drink at our reception for the team and supporters. I spoke with England Coach and friend Andy Flower the next morning and he too realized what a massive moment for Irish Cricket it had been. I’m sure he had days like that with Zimbabwe too.

We have put ourselves in winning positions against big sides a lot recently. We should have beaten Australia last summer too, but managed to collapse much like the Bangladesh game. However the more you put yourselves in those positions, one day you get there and that’s when you truly believe you can win and deserve to win. That’s why the games to come for us in this World Cup are going to be extremely exciting and more wins are possible. I’m sure next time we get in a winning position, no one is going to take that from us quite so easily.

Our Sport Psychologist consultant Michael Caulfield from Sporting Edge says ‘panic slowly’ and Phil Simmons said the word for the day was ‘time’. We did just that, hung in the game and clawed things back with the bat and ball. Proving there is more time in a one day international than you think. Still on the mental side of the game, it was great to see a much more positive dressing room full of belief and everyone relishing the opportunity to play with freedom on the biggest stage.

We had a rare but well-earned day off today, where some of the guys did interviews and others gathered round the pool with friends, wives, girlfriends and family, looking at newspaper articles from home and taking it all in. It is hard to comprehend just what beating England might do for cricket in Ireland, if all the emails and texts we’ve received is anything to go by then I think it is huge. Cricket Ireland is a very professional organization now, which will be able to make the most of our sport being in the spotlight and harness an audience and raise awareness and participation in the sport. Success breeds success.

Tomorrow we will sit down and review the England game in detail, practice and begin to focus on our next opponents India. As for the ICC potentially excluding us from the next World Cup, does anyone really believe the World Cup would be better off without the Irish Cricket Team? We fully deserve to be given more support and more opportunities to prove ourselves, not less. We have shown over the last 4 years that we are not just a flash in the pan, but a well organised professional side.

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