Ireland were well beaten by the impressive reigning #Cricket World Cup champions earlier today in Hamilton, but still remain in the chase for a qualifying spot from Pool B into the quarter-finals. With five wins out of five matches, the Indians completed their initial aim of topping the group, with a comfortable run chase batting second to clinch victory by eight wickets. The Irish now know that they need to beat Pakistan in their final match to be certain of reaching the last-eight.
India took a little time to acclimatise to the slightly different conditions, in their first match in New Zealand during the tournament, as their bowlers were unable to dominate as well as in earlier group matches.
That allowed Ireland to make a solid start in their quest to set a target that they could hopefully defend. The openers William Porterfield (67) and Paul Stirling (42) put on a promising 89 for the first wicket, but Ed Joyce could not for once add much to their effort as he was dismissed for just 2 runs, as the second wicket fell soon after on 92. Consecutive fifty-run partnerships for the third and fourth wickets as Niall O'Brien scored 75 batting at number four, looked to be pushing the Irish towards a sizeable total. Sadly for them, they lost their last seven wickets for just 53 runs, amassing a below par total of 259 all out off 49 overs.
For once it was the spinners who pulled the Indians back into the game, as their pace bowlers toiled early on. Ravichandran Ashwin (2-38) was perhaps the pick, although Suresh Raina (1-40) also helped to control the early Irish impetus. As far as wickets were concerned, Mohammed Shami was the main figure with 3-41 from his nine overs.
A target of 260 always looked well within India's range and a massive opening stand of 174 between Shikhar Dhawan (100) and Rohit Sharma (64), made the rest of the innings a mere formality.
Dhawan was slightly fortunate when being dropped twice early on in his innings, but in reality both chances were by no means straightforward, so perhaps his luck was justified. Both openers were eventually dismissed by Stuart Thompson, but that only brought Virat Kohli (44) and Ajinkya Rahane (33) to the middle, who completed the job with some 79 balls still remaining in the match.
The Indians seem to be growing as the tournament progresses, still unbeaten and now on a run of some 9 games at successive World Cups where they have yet to taste defeat. That draws them level with the mighty West Indian team from the mid-1970s, but still some way behind the formidable Australians, who chalked up the amazing run of 25 successive wins between 1999 and 2011 in World Cup competitions.
Ireland now need either a victory against Pakistan on Sunday or if the luck of the Irish really is in, a washed out match (as there was previously in this World Cup between Australia and Bangladesh). That would secure them a point from a drawn game and would also be enough. The only other permutation that would see them qualify, irrespective of their final match result, would be if the West Indies fail to defeat bottom of the table UAE (with no points) on Saturday.
Will Irish eyes be smiling by the end of the weekend?