William Porterfield’s team extended their winning habit against Test-playing nations when they began their campaign with a four-wicket Pool B victory over West Indies in Nelson on Monday. They were continuing the trend they have set at previous World Cups, memorably against England at Bangalore in 2011 and Pakistan in the Caribbean four years earlier.
This time, on a small playing area and very good pitch, they restricted the Windies to 304 for seven — despite Lendl Simmons’ 102 and his sixth-wicket stand of 154 with Darren Sammy (89) — with left-arm spinner George Dockrell taking three for 50.
Then Phil Simmons’ men in green always appeared on course for a successful chase and, even with a minor late wobble, got the job done with more than four overs to spare thanks principally to Paul Stirling (92), Ed Joyce (84) and Niall O’Brien (79no).
O’Brien, whose brother Kevin was the hero of that famous success against England, was delighted to have come good at the right time — and is predicting further progress over the next month, too.
He said: “I was due a few runs. I owed the boys a few, so I’m thrilled. It’s a fantastic result. We played out of our skins and deserved to win.”
Ireland’s expert chase shocked the Windies, and doubtless many others, but not O’Brien and his team-mates.
“From our point of view, it wasn’t really an upset,” he added. “We went into the game this morning thinking we could and should win the game... and we’ve been proved right.”
Ireland will have ample time to celebrate before their next fixture against the United Arab Emirates in Brisbane on February 25.
That, along with Zimbabwe, is one for which they will start definite favourites — and both O’Brien and Porterfield are optimistic.
“This win gives us confidence... potentially we could be going into a game against India with six points out of eight,” said O’Brien. “It’s early days, and we won’t be getting carried away. But we’re absolutely over the moon and delighted with the start.”
Porterfield is revelling in the moment, too, but already starting to plot a route into the quarter-finals.
“It’s fantastic,” said the captain. “The way we went about chasing down those runs was great. It sets us up for the next three games. It’s a great position to be in. We firmly believe what we are capable of. We’ve just got to continue this throughout the tournament. The belief is that we can qualify from the group stage.”
But it wasn’t all smiles for Ireland. All-rounders John Mooney and Darren Sammy both admitted Level 1 offences for swearing audibly during Ireland’s win and were fined 30% of their match fees. Mooney lost his temper when a catch was put down by one of his team-mates. Former Windies captain Sammy voiced his ire while batting.