Will Ireland Remember the Summer of '69?
Group D, in which we find our heroes, is a tough one, being one of the two groups containing three test-playing nations and only one minnow, that being Ireland in this case. Pakistan follow on St.Patrick's Day, then the home team, the West Indies, should be Ireland's last opponents on 23rd March.
It is unlikely that an open-top bus reception will be necessary on their return, but the prospect of qualification from their group is not outwith the bounds of possibility. Coach Adrian Birrell believes "the key to the whole tournament is the match against Zimbabwe...If we can start well and get a win in that match it sets us up quite nicely for the tournament. We would then then have two chances to cause an upset and get us through the group stages."
If Ireland do dispatch the Zimbos, and presuming that Pakistan will be a little too strong, then they can draw on inspiration from both the distant and recent past before taking on the Windies for a place in the Super 8 (the second stage,when the tournament begins in earnest).
Let's take a trip back in time to July 1969. The Rolling Stones were topping thecharts with their Honky Tonk Woman, Teddy Kennedy was having an automobile mishap in Chappaquiddick, a 10-year old Bryan Adams claims to have been playing an old six-string till his fingers bled and, on July 20th, the world watches in awe as Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon. A worthy achievement indeed, but dwarfed on the scale of human endeavour by Ireland's triumph over the West Indies in Sion Mills, Co.Tyrone 18 days earlier.
The touring Windies had come straight from a drawn match in Lords, without the injured Gary Sobers and wicket keeper Michael Hendrick, but still boasting six of the previous day's test line-up, including future captain Clive Lloyd.
Famously, the Irish bowled out their vaunted opponents for 25 runs, with Dougie Goodwin and Alex O'Riordan taking 5 for 6 and 4 for 18 respectively, on the way to a nine wicket victory.This being Ireland, the story went that the hosts had gotten their visitors tanked up on stout the night before the game (those crafty Irish!). This angle is probably apocryphal, Goodwin later remembering that the West Indies had arrived so late after their flight from London that the home team were the more likely to have been excessively oiled.
Even more hearteningly, the Windies were again humbled as recently as June 2004, when Brian Lara captained the losing side in Belfast. This time the tourists even set a challenging total, Dwayne Bravo knocking a ton to set Ireland a target of 292. However a first wicket partnership by Jason Molins and Jeremy Bray of 111, and wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien's 58 helped Ireland to a six wicket win.
Of course, both those famous triumphs came in the rather moist environment of Erin, as opposed to the dusty track that awaits in Kingston town, so Ireland remain firm underdogs this time. Still, maybe the spirit of 1969 can be re-created, either through a blistering bowling attack, or perhaps by luring the Pakistan team into celebrating St.Patrick's Day in the traditional manner.
"Ah Jaysus Inzamam, sure we've no chance against yiz, have a pint! Here put this silly hat on as well! And the ginger beard. Now punch your best mate. Go on, it's Paddy's Day...!"