Ireland suffered their second defeat from five games in Pool B on Tuesday when they came up well short against the current world champions, India, at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
However while the margin of the reverse may have been significant, this was no bad performance from Phil Simmons’ team. The Head Coach made just one change to the side that beat UAE last time- Stuart Thompson getting his first start of the tournament at the expense of his Warriors colleague Andy McBrine.
Skipper William Porterfield opted to bat first on winning the toss and the innings turned out to be very much a tale of two halves. Porterfield and his opening partner Paul Stirling gave their side a wonderful platform racing to a 50-run stand in less than 8 overs and forcing India skipper MS Dhoni to turn to his spinners early in the piece.
Despite the fast outfield and short boundaries however it was the slow stuff that really put the brakes on Ireland’s progress although it took until the 15th over for the breakthrough to come.
Stirling showed yet again how valuable he can be at the top of the order as he scored 42 off 41 deliveries (4 fours and 2 sixes) but his dismissal, an innocuous chip to Rahane at deep mid-off, saw the momentum swing.
Ed Joyce came and went for just a couple before a 53-run stand between Niall O’Brien and Porterfield ended with the skipper caught by Umesh Yadav for an excellent 67 (5 fours and a six). It had taken a while however and India were now on top as Ireland struggled for fluency against the spinners.
Andrew Balbirnie joined O’Brien and these two picked up the ante again to re-ignite hopes of a 300-plus total. With the score on 206 however the Middlesex man was caught by Mohammad Shami off the impressive Ravi Ashwin for 24, and after that the whole impetus of the innings changed.
Kevin O’Brien (1), Gary Wilson (6), Thompson (run out for 2) and George Dockrell (6) failed to make any impact and although Alex Cusack (11) and John Mooney (12*) added 21 for the last wicket, it was a disappointing end to the 50 overs.
No team has batted the full 50 against Dhoni’s men so far in this World Cup and that record looked set to go here before the bowlers pulled it right around to dismiss Ireland for 259 with 6 balls still unused. Shami was leading wicket taker with 3-41 but Ashwin was the pick, claiming 2-38, half of which came in his last two overs.
Against such a powerful batting line-up and on an excellent surface Ireland’s mission looked tough and openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma soon put any thoughts of a shock win to bed. Dhawan did offer two tough chances on 5 and 10, but neither John Mooney or William Porterfield managed to cling on.
At one point it looked as if this pair would do it on their own- both racing to half centuries to set their team on their way to winning the group.
The partnership was finally broken by new man Thompson in the 24th over but only after they had put together a 174-run stand.
The Eglinton man bowled Sharma for 66 (3 fours and 3 sixes) and although the same bowler had Dhawan caught by Porterfield soon after, the end was already nigh.
Dhawan fell shortly after bringing up a superb, 84-ball century that included 11 fours and 4 sixes, leaving Virat Kohli (44 not out) and Ajinkya Rahane (33 not out) to carry India to a very comfortable 8-wicket win.
Thompson (2-45) did very well with the ball but skipper Porterfield will accept that it was a day when his men ran into one of the top sides in the world at the top of their game.
Ireland now move on to Sunday’s winner-take-all game against Pakistan in Adelaide where they will hope that an excellent effort so far will earn its due reward of a quarter final place.
After the game Porterfield spoke to Sentinel Sport’s cricket correspondent Barry Chambers.