David Leggat: Battling Irish show it's more than luck

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Kevin O'Brien hit the fastest century in World Cup history. Photo / Getty Images
Kevin O'Brien hit the fastest century in World Cup history. Photo / Getty Images

World tournaments, no matter the sport, offer the armchair critic the chance to be judge and jury. Who has caught the eye; who has made the biggest chump of themselves; who might ultimately win the trophy? All the bests and worsts, and it's always an argument you can't lose.

And so it is, and will be until the start of next month, with cricket's World Cup.

But should you choose as player of this week anyone other than the pink-haired Irishman Kevin O'Brien, it's time for a holiday.

O'Brien it is, by the length of the River Liffey for his blockbusting century against England, which in turn set up the greatest of all upsets in the cup's history.

It was the fastest century at this tournament by 30 balls; the quickest in cup history by 16. Ireland's win came on the back of the biggest second innings chase in cup history.

It was no fluke either. Ireland beat Pakistan four years ago, were on track to topple England at last year's world T20, and should have beaten Bangladesh a week ago.

They are the ringing endorsement for the retention of associate nations in the World Cup, and why the International Cricket Council should revisit its plan to trim the tournament to the bare 10 teams from 2015.

That is because they have been improving, unlike Canada and Kenya, who have not.

You don't need to have been at the after-match celebrations to know the fact it was England who had been toppled would have made the tipple taste even better. Historic and political reasons explain that.

A second, perhaps unlikely figure of stature came out of that match too, commentator David Lloyd.

"Bumble" Lloyd, a former England opener and coach, sounded like a man excitedly chuntering away while clutching a pint in the bar as it became apparent that not only did the Irish have a chance, they were in the box seat and wielding a hammer and nails on the English.

Saying Lloyd thoroughly enjoys himself behind the microphone is like suggesting bats are partial to a cave.

"Great skill, great bottle!" he cried as Ireland's batsmen held their nerve in the run to the finish line.

"This is it! This is it! This is it!" he roared as the winning runs rolled towards the mid-wicket boundary.

Then a minute later as overjoyed Irish players leaped into robust embraces, "Get on the black stuff!" he urged, not that the Irish and their fans would have needed any encouragement, had they been able to find any Guinness in Bangalore that night.

Lloyd is a funny man, clearly loves the game and is not curtailed by any feelings of parochialism. More of "Bumble" please, broadcasting planners.

A word, too, for former England captain Nasser Hussain, who can be tart in his observations as well as insightful. He made the point that "they might not play as much as the English but their brains are just as good today". Better actually, but we'll let that pass. The game - and the commentary - was a treat all round.

- NZ Herald

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