The Ireland players rushed towards the stands to greet their home fans moments after they were declared the winners of the Super 12 T20 World Cup fixture against England in Melbourne by five runs via Duckworth-Lewis method.
They signed autographs, clicked selfies with youngsters and waved at the fans, who braved the rains to watch the game on Wednesday.
This was the first time the two teams met in an ICC event since 2011, when a Kevin O’Brien century had guided the Irishmen to a stunning victory. At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Ireland maintained dominance before a heavy downpour brought the DLS into the play. Chasing 158, England was struggling at 105 for five in 14.3 overs. Even though Moeen Ali (24 n.o., 12b, 3×4, 1×6) hammered a six at the start of Gareth Delany’s 14th over and followed it up with a brace and a four, England was still five short of 110, the DLS par score at that stage.
It wasn’t England’s evening to remember. It lost captain Jos Buttler on the second ball of its run-chase when a full delivery from Josh Little (two for 16) forced Buttler to attempt a drive through the covers and induced an edge back to keeper Lorcan Tucker.
England needed a partnership to get going; but in his next over, the 22-year-old Little struck again, tempting Alex Hales to go for a pull. However, the England batter ended up offering a catch to Mark Adair at short fine-leg.
Unable to adjust to the pace, England’s top-heavy batting line-up looked shaky, and things worsened further as Fionn Hand castled Ben Stokes’s stumps with an inswinger. England was now struggling at 29 for three in the sixth over.
With the required run rate climbing, Dawid Malan and Harry Brook relied on singles and twos to forge a 38-run stand for the fourth wicket. England rode its luck briefly when it got two consecutive reprieves in the first two deliveries of the 11th over by George Dockrell as Adair and Delany dropped sitters.
But in the fifth delivery, Dockrell finally managed to pack off Brook after the latter offered a catch to Delany at deep mid-wicket. Just a few minutes before rain stopped play, Malan, too, departed, leaving England in tatters.
The move to bowl first after winning the toss did not work for Buttler, as his frontline pacers failed to capitalise on the early dismissal of Paul Stirling. Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie was the mainstay with a 47-ball-62 opening the batting, while Lorcan Tucker pitched in with 34 as the side reached 103-1 in 11.5 overs.
Just when it looked like Ireland would end up scoring close to 200, wickets started to tumble at regular intervals. Tucker was run out at the non-strikers end by Adil Rashid. That halted Ireland’s momentum.
With Liam Livingstone and Mark Wood, who claimed three wickets apiece, tightening the noose, Ireland lost nine wickets for 54 runs.
However, in hindsight, the collapse did not cost the team dearly, as it managed to grab two points. This shock defeat, however, means England must win its next game against Australia on Friday to keep its semifinal hopes alive.