History repeats itself.
Plenty of chatter about England being a threatening force and two games in the tournament, we are already staring at familiar darkness. England might still be favourites but that margin has come down considerably, after a display that they would regret.
Jos Buttler’s Three Lions have become the force that they wanted to get away from, a team that could always maximize on their potential with the bat. But on Wednesday, the familiar dark place hit them back, forcing flashbacks.
The year is different, the venue is different but the result: same. Only one survivor from 2011, George Dockrell, who now has a story for lifetime to recite to his grandchildren. Dockrell knows how to beat rivals England not once but twice. While the Three Lions certainly were far away from executing their plans, Ireland took the opportunity like duck to water.
"They outplayed us in all three facets of the game and the better team won. We know we have made a mistake here and have put more pressure on us,” admitted Buttler after the game. Despite being one of the most attacking teams in the competition, the Three Lions have found themselves caught up in a defensive muddle.
Their batting has been set up for more attack. But on a day where they had to attack, against Ireland, they were caught flat-footed on the backfoot, nibbling away at the ones and twos. The English juggernaut hadn't caught fire, and by the time Moeen Ali started lighting it up, Ireland had already rejoiced in their own fairyland.
The celebration showed in flesh on what the win meant for Ireland, but more importantly, the loss showed that England have put two steps back while trying to put a step forward. It is definitely a clash which is a spanner in their works. Rain was always going to be around the corner but despite knowing that, the Three Lions walked like they were in a park of sunshine.
England lost as soon as it began
And, it all started with erring in their plans early on in the innings. Just ten overs into the first innings, England were already playing catch-up cricket. Chasing totals is a double-edged sword. While it definitely can help you understand how to structure the run-chase, it will also help the bowling team to read the conditions to perfection.
Mark Wood summed up the game perfectly at the half-way mark of the clash, “flat, struggle, lacking intensity” and “could have done better”. The margin of defeat might just be five runs, courtesy of some lusty blows towards the end from Moeen Ali but the truth remains that England have plenty of concerns to worry about.
It wasn’t the first time that the Irish paraded over a top-side. If it was West Indies in the qualifiers, it was England’s turn to be on the receiving end. In specific, the way the Three Lions batted, it was almost like they were sort of pedestrian in this journey of life, when they had to claw the momentum in their favour.
Skipper Andrew Balbirnie played a significant hand in scripting a historical day for Irish cricket. In overcast conditions, against a bowling attack that has Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Wood and Sam Curran, he treaded on the perfect path, scoring 62 off 47 balls, with five boundaries and two sixes. Ireland might have crashed heavily from 103/2 to 157 all-out but what was crucial to understand is their mentality.
The Irish mentality to success
Even though put significantly on the backfoot, Ireland never gave up, which only amplified in the second half of the innings. Understanding the nuances of the pitch, Ireland bowled 28% of their deliveries on a good length in the powerplay, something that paid off. The dividends were there to see, with Joshua Little picking up both Alex Hales and Buttler in the first two overs.
Fionn Hand, who came in replacing Simi Singh, too played a brutal hand, dismissing Ben Stokes, which sort of numbed down the run-chase for England. Ireland stuck to their strength, to their plans and more importantly, always believed throughout the course of the clash.
“We had a great week in Hobart and to do this was at one of the biggest grounds is pretty special. A few (supporters) of them extended their trip, they are so passionate about the game and we are trying to make the sport big in Ireland. Quite a quick turnaround but we have the momentum and will try to make the most of it,” Balbirnie said in the post-match presentation.
The Three Lions, on the other hand, hit only five boundaries, at a stage where their rivals – Ireland – had already scored 13 boundaries. It was not a fluke win for Ireland, it was one that was down to some street-smartness and sharp plans to cost England two points.
“We were slightly disappointed with the way we finished, we lost 7 wickets for not a lot and they took the momentum away from us. Our message was to just create chances and we know how this England team like to play, if we take every chance then we would be in with a shot.”
Cricket still might not be the most popular sport in Ireland but the way they have played thus far in the tournament, it might just be a case of picking up the wildfire. If it was Kevin O’Brien and his gobsmacking 113 off 63 balls, it was Balbirnie’s 62 that sealed the deal on a cold and wet night in Melbourne.
It might be a shock in terms of the result but Balbirnie and co are just starting. And it is high-time that teams have to be more meticulous against them. For England, it presents a situation for contemplation, Stokes? Woakes? Too much emphasis on Wood, name it and there is a worry.