Tony Bishop ∙ Oct 27 2022, 2:46 AM

Ghosts of recent past return to haunt England at the MCG as Ireland win

image-l9qglwmhIreland beat England via the DL method (Source: AP)

This was England’s first time back at the MCG since last year’s Boxing Day Test. Given this time was a World T20 encounter with Ireland, there really should have been little or no link between the two events. Different format, different circumstances, different opposition and of course a very different England team. However, the early season wet and cold weather that has seen bowlers given much more of an even break in this World Cup than they might have expected, England met Ireland on a pitch that was distinctly green and spicy. Just the conditions, indeed, that Scott Boland had so relished as he battered and breached England’s brittle defences to take a debut six wickets for seven runs. 

That day, of course, England were something of a disaster waiting to happen and the excellent Boland reaped the reward on his home ground, in the process becoming just the second male Indigenous Test player for Australia after Jason Gillespie. Boland and Australia celebrated and the thumping margin of victory was by an innings. However, Australia being the victors was not really a shock to the cricket world. Today, on the other hand was, as much to England as to anyone else it seems. 

If Scott Boland was one living ghost watching on with interest, you can bet that another, Kevin O’Brien, the architect of what, until today, was Ireland’s most famous win over England will have been too. When England had appeared to be cruising in Bengaluru eleven years ago, his bludgeoning 113 of just 63 balls fired Ireland to a narrow and seemingly impossible three wicket victory with just five balls to spare. 

Had these twin spectres of the past spooked a distinctly below par England? Possibly, but in truth, Ireland were simply the better team on the day and certainly made by far the best use of the conditions. To their credit, whilst clearly disappointed in themselves, England realised that it was the opposition and their own failings that had brought them down, rather than the weather. In conditions more resembling Manchester than Melbourne, the Irish victory margin of 5 runs via Duckworth Lewis calculations sounds closer than it was. Yes, the rain that had delayed the start, returned terminally at a point where Moeen Ali might just have been about to get England ahead of the DL rate, but in truth, Ireland were always ahead in the game. 

England, having won the toss and chosen to field first, knowing that they would have an advantage in a rain interrupted chase, really lost the vital powerplay stages with bat and ball. Ireland’s powerplay had yielded an excellent 59 runs for the loss of just one wicket, compared to England’s reply in the same period of just 37 for the loss of heavy hitters, Buttler, Hales and Stokes. At the halfway stage of each innings, Ireland’s advantage had stretched to a 29-run difference, their 92 for 1 leaving England’s 63 for 3 trailing. Whilst Ireland’s innings imploded as they lost six wickets for in under four overs for twenty-five runs, the damage had been done. 

There was a strong sense that England knew it too. In a surprisingly frank interval interview, Mark Wood clearly felt his three wickets were not a great return given the conditions. In fact, he said, England’s seamers had bowled waywardly and their out-cricket had lacked intensity. Although he didn’t say it, the seeds of their downfall had been sowed before the start of the Irish collapse. 

image-l9qgosl3Ireland in action (Source: AP)

Josh Little, Mark Adair and Barry McCarthy had bowled noticeably fuller and thus more frugally than England’s seamers who allowed Stirling (the only Bengaluru veteran on either side), Andy Balbirnie and Lorcan Tucker to give Ireland the initiative. 

Jos Buttler, equally, refused to hide behind the rude timing of the Melbourne rain and knows that when they return to the MCG on Friday to play Australia it will effectively be a knockout match and that England must improve considerably to lay the ghosts of the recent past.

Ireland for their part, should enjoy a famous and thoroughly deserved victory. Andy Balbirnie and his team can now stand shoulder to shoulder with the Boys of Bengaluru and move to their Friday encounter with Afghanistan in the highest of spirits. 

Also Read: T20 World Cup 2022, ENG vs IRE: England suffer heartbreak as rain plays spoilsport