Calcutta: For the statisticans, it was just another ODI (No.2383). For Ireland, it meant the world and more.
Indeed, while the David Johnston-captained team went down to England by 38 runs on June 13 (in Belfast), that face-off marked the 2007 World Cup qualifiers’ maiden big match.
The International Cricket Council has accorded ‘temporary’ ODI status to all five qualifiers ' Bermuda, Canada, Holland and Scotland being the others.
Their promotion runs till the 2009 ICC Trophy, to be hosted by the UAE.
“Actually, we were without two key players ' batsman Eoin Morgan and wicketkeeper Niall ’Brien ' who weren’t released by Middlesex and Kent, respectively, or else we could have done better,” an Irish Cricket Union (ICU) spokesman told The Telegraph.
Sadly, though, the ICU hasn’t been able to arrange more such matches against any of the Test-playing nations in the lead-up to the March 11-April 27 showpiece event.
Ireland have been placed in Group D, with 1975 and 1979 winners (hosts, too) West Indies, 1992 champions Pakistan and the relatively weak Zimbabwe.
Two from each group will move into the Super Eight stage.
However, coached by South African Adrian Barrell (from Kepler Wessels’ Eastern Province), Ireland are going to play in the European Championship to be hosted by Scotland in August.
Then, in January, there will be the World Cricket League in Kenya featuring the hosts and all five World Cup qualifiers.
After that is a tournament in the UAE, with Scotland being the third team.
According to the ICU spokesman, 2007 is going to begin with a two-week session at South Africa’s High-Performance Centre in Pretoria.
The World Cup apart, Ireland’s real big moment will be next summer when the West Indies and Zimbabwe play a triangular hosted by the ICU.
Incidentally, the Ireland XI which faced England included a civil servant and a deliveryman; electricians and schoolteachers.
Even somebody unemployed.
For who is what (in batting order), do read on'
Dominic Joyce: Just out of university; Jeremy Bray: Fitness instructor; Andre Botha: Unemployed; William McCallan: Schoolteacher; Peter Gillespie: Civil servant; David Johnston: Works for a cricket clothing manufacturer; Andrew White: Schoolteacher on two years leave to play for Northants; Kevin ’Brien: Student; David Langford-Smith: Deliveryman for a firm dealing in tractors, lawn mowers; John Mooney: Electrician; Paul Mooney: Electrician.