Cricket the winner on an unforgettable occasion
Eoin Morgan produces a majestic knock of 124 not out to guide visitors home to victory
Eoin Morgan of England is congratulated by the Irish team after hitting the winning runs in the RSA Challenge One Day International match between Ireland and England at Malahide yesterday. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
In the end England skipper Eoin Morgan came back, saw and conquered as his majestic knock of 124 not out in an ODI record unbeaten fifth-wicket stand of 226 with Ravi Bopara (101 not out) saw the visitors home with seven overs to spare.
It left the crowd pretty deflated as they streamed away in the early autumn sun, but in many respects this day was never about the result, although any defeat to England always hurts.
As Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom pointed out in the build-up, it was all about showing the world that Ireland had come of age as a cricketing nation in every respect and they were going to have a party to celebrate. Just like Morgan, they pulled it off in style.
President Michael D Higgins arrived during the lunch interval to quite a reception, while the top man in the International Cricket Council, chief executive David Richardson, was on hand to witness close on 10,000 supporters bathed in sunshine more akin to Barbados than dear old Dublin.
At the ground they cheered and even booed, saving a little venom up for Morgan when he came out to bat, although it was only half-hearted.
He quietened the crowds with his bat with a stunning innings of control and aggression, with Bopara proving a willing ally.
Morgan was delighted with his innings after a mixed summer with the bat, but also took time out to praise the organisation of the day on the ground where he made his debut as a 13-year-old.
“An incredible day for Irish cricket today, the support was magnificent, nine or 10,000 people coming out here today to support, so congratulations to Cricket Ireland on a fantastic day,” said Morgan, who also presented the England team to President Higgins.
Morgan also praised the performance of the second Irishman in the England team as opening bowler Boyd Rankin took four wickets for 46 on his ODI debut.
“Boyd’s quite used to conditions here, he had to go a little fuller to start with, which is quite challenging for a guy of his height, but he’s handled things quite well and settled in really well.”
So a win-win really for Irish cricket and Irish cricketers on so many levels even with the taste of defeat still lingering, with the impact of the Sky Sports cameras beaming pictures of azure skies around the globe worth more than any advertising campaign could manage.
They gathered alright, gathered to watch cricket, gathered to cheer on Ireland and England, gathered to chat and catch up and share a drink.
Wouldn’t it be great if it could be like this all the time they said. For one glorious day in a north county village, the world looked on as Irish cricket showed itself off in all its glory. And a former local legend walked off with spoils.