Calcutta: The Eden Gardens was set for a green revolution but Ireland didnt have the rub of the green. Success of a revolution requires the involvement of the multitude but Ireland, on Tuesday, failed to put up a team effort, especially during their chase and hence the result was obvious — the Proteas brutally crushed an Irish uprising.
Its one thing to light a fire, quite another to keep it going. The Irish lit up the ground with their bright fielding and bowling display, but fizzled out when faced with the challenge from the fire-spitting South African pacers.
The 273-run target was achievable, provided there was a collective Irish contribution. But losing wickets with the regularity of the pendulum brought their doom as they were bundled out for 141 in 33.2 overs. The 131-run win is not only massive in terms of the numbers, but critically significant. It helped the Proteas to book themselves a ticket for the knockout stage and thereby knocked out tension.
Ireland lost their first wicket in the form of captain William Porterfield in the second over and their last wicket, George Dockrell, in the 34th over. In between, it was a clinical South African bowling performance. They absorbed whatever the pitch had on offer and either outclassed the Irish outright or lured them into making mistakes.
While Morne Morkel (3/33) and Jacques Kallis (2/20) were exhibiting quality fast bowling, Robin Peterson (3/32), Johan Botha (1/32) and JP Duminy (1/11) conjured up enough turn to make up for the absence of Imran Tahir.
For Ireland, Gareth Wilson (31) stuck to his job best. The other batsmen just gave the ICC a reason to stick to their ten-team plan for the next World Cup.
Earlier, however, the afternoon provided the perfect recipe for a mouth-watering evening — a gritty Irish display on the field was threatening to outshine JP Duminys heroic (tragic as well) innings of 99.
Had it not been for Duminys well-compiled innings off 103 balls, South Africa would never have managed a total of 272 for seven. Duminy paced his innings perfectly. He cut down the risks (unlike the Proteas top-order), waited for the boundary balls, pressed the slog-button just at the right time and, most importantly, stitched two vital partnerships with Colin Ingram (46) and Johan Botha (21 not out).
Pressure and panic are twin brothers and when both operate in tandem, even needles seem like daggers. Ireland were supposedly an easier opponent, but the quarters race made it an almost must-win tie for the Proteas. Couple that up with Irelands new-found tough nut reputation and you will understand why there was enough pressure on the Graeme Smiths to panic.
But the mighty Proteas were not supposed to have anything to fear. Coming off a morale-boosting win over India, their shield of experience and talent was strong enough to take care of the Irish bowlers and the overcast conditions. However, the script unfolded differently. Its difficult to fathom why but the South Africans decided to shift on to the fifth gear from the very beginning. The strategy to impose pressure on the opposition from the first ball, without the real need, may often be the case of actually de-pressurising oneself.
Hashim Amla (18) and Morne van Wyk (42) perished in their undue urgency. Smith (7), too, had a forgettable presence at the crease before a direct hit from John Mooney found him short of his crease. And South African prospects looked gloomier than the sky when Kallis and Faf du Plessis succumbed in quick succession.
At 117 for five, Group B was looking set for another twist. But then Duminy and Ingram happened to the Proteas and sanity, to some extent, was restored. As the Irish pack their bags (after their final match against the Netherlands, on Friday) for home, our thirst for a revolution remains unquenched.