Ireland surprised many, if not themselves, by providing an upset to beat the West Indies in their opening ODI World Cup match overnight Down Under in Nelson. Their shock victory by four wickets will have caused some shockwaves among the other teams in Pool B, such was the manner in which they controlled the game to chase down a decent target, and then claimed victory with overs to spare.
The World Cup has typically been thought of as being set up such that the Test playing nations would expect to qualify for the later stages, even if they lose a number of games in the group stages. That is based on an expectation that the so-called 'minnows' in the two pools, will succumb relatively easily when faced with what are perceived to be stronger cricketing nations.
Ireland made a mockery of such considerations, as faced with a sizeable target of 305 after West Indies had batted first, they were able to chase down the runs required without demonstrating the big-time nerves that commonly afflict the teams not afforded that many top-flight contests. Victories such as this will add credence to their wish for more high profile fixtures outside of the World Cup itself, as skipper Will Porterfield was keen to indicate afterwards.
The West Indies had posted a solid score when they batted, after the Irish had won the toss and elected to field first, with Lendl Simmons leading the way with a superb century (102) and sharing a 154 partnership with Darren Sammy. Sammy scored a delightful 89 himself to ensure that the Windies' perilous position at 87-5 became a distant memory by the close, as the Caribbean side reached 304-7.
Ireland were always in the contest though, batting sensibly to reach their target with 25 balls still remaining to be bowled. They were indebted to Porterfield's opening partnership of 71 with Paul Stirling, which was built on when Ed Joyce joined Stirling at the crease. The pair added 106 for the next wicket, as Stirling scored 92 and Joyce 84. Sharing the runs around in a real team effort by the Irish, Niall O'Brien contributed 79 not out to be there at the close, ensuring that his side reached the target in some style, taking their fourth World Cup win over a Test-playing nation. Their opponents tried all they could to stem the flow of runs, as eight bowlers were used in total, but all to no avail. #CricketSpeaking afterwards, former England spinner Graeme Swann voiced what many observers may now be thinking, as he believes that they are a far more dangerous and all-round team than that which shocked his country's XI four years ago. That win was heavily reliant on one amazing innings by Kevin O'Brien, whereas they demonstrated a more balanced approach against the West Indies. As a result, Swann believes that they have the capability to shock others in their pool before the qualifying stages have been completed. Victory over the 'Windies' was certainly a step in the right direction.