A fascinating tale of Irish pluck versus Ravichandran ‘offspin’ Ashwin played out at Seddon Park on Tuesday in the clash between an Associate team and defending champs India.
After a rousing start, Ireland struggled when Indian skipper MS Dhoni introduced spin. Dhoni was in his element, shouting instructions in Hindi as he spun the spin web through Ashwin and Suresh Raina around the Irish.
Ireland reached a respectable 212/5 at the end of the 40th over, giving themselves a solid platform for a final flourish.
The Irish, however, lost their enforcer Kevin O’Brien for 1 in the 40th over. Kevin — holder of the fastest World Cup century record (off 50 balls against England in 2011) —edged Mohammed Shami to Dhoni behind the stumps.
Kevin’s brother Niall O'Brien did not slow down. He punished India with assured hits all around the ground and raced past his half-century before falling for a run-a-ball 75.
Dhoni turned to spin after pacers went for plenty initially.
Ashwin gave the defending champions the breakthrough with the last ball of the 15th over, getting opener Paul Stirling to hole out to Ajinkya Rahane at long-off after scoring an enterprising 42 off 41 balls.
India had their second wicket in the 18th over when Suresh Raina bowled Ed Joyce for 2.
Irish skipper William Porterfield held strong for 67 before a leading edge to Mohit Sharma in the 32nd over was pouched by Umesh Yadav at mid-off.
Stirling fell with the Irish score on 89 and Joyce was back in the hut at 92, giving India the breathing space. India got their third wicket in Porterfield with the Irish score at 145.
Andy Balbirnie was the next to go with the Irish score at 206. Kevin fell two runs later and Gary Wilson went with the total at 222. Niall fell at 226 and Virat Kohli ran out Stuart Thompson a run later.
Yadav had George Dockrell caught by Dhoni for 6, with the Irish total on 238. Alex Cusack was the last to fall after scoring 11.
Ireland lost momentum after losing too many wickets too quickly. Indian pacers returned to chip away after the spinners had done the job. Shami claimed the wickets of the O'Brien brothers.
Earlier, Porterfield won the toss and chose to bat. He and Stirling got off to a brisk start, taking on Indian fast bowlers Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Sharma with intent.
Ireland, fighting for a knockout berth, brought up their 50 in the 8th over, throwing all pre-match talk of a possible mismatch out of the equation.
Boundaries flowed from Porterfield and Stirling, who went neck and neck. At the end of the 8th over, both had three boundaries and a six.
Porterfield hooked Yadav for a big six over square leg in the 3rd over and followed it up with a classy drive down the ground for four the next ball.
Not to be outdone, Stirling took on Shami in similar style in the 4th over, sending the fourth ball of the over soaring over forward square leg boundary for a six.
The run fest ended with the introduction of spin. Ireland went past 100 in the 22nd over and brought up the 150 in the 33rd.
India went into the match with an unchanged side, deciding not to test their bench strength.
Wicket highlights from Ireland innings
48.6 overs | M. SHAMI TO A. CUSACK
OUT! That's it, Ireland are all out for 259. Short of a length ball, Cusack bends back and looks to play the upper cut. But the ball goes straight to Umesh Yadav at third man who takes a safe catch. Third wicket for Shami. India bowl out an opposition once again in this World Cup!
45.3 overs | U. YADAV TO G. DOCKRELL
OUT! Caught behind! Shortish outside off, Dockrell backs away and goes for the heave but only manages to get an outside edge to the keeper behind. Umesh Yadav gets his first wicket. He looks too happy. Ireland lose their penultimate wicket.
42.3 overs | M. SHAMI TO J. MOONEY
OUT! Thompson is run out! Back of a length ball outside off, Mooney taps it towards covers and asks for a run. Thompson sets off from the other end. Kohli quickly collects the ball and scores a direct hit at the non-striker's end. As soon as Mooney saw Kohli going near the ball, Mooney said no straightaway. Thompson tried to make it in with a dive but replays show he fell short. Superb throw. Ireland slip even further.
42.1 overs | M. SHAMI TO N. O'BRIEN
OUT! Straight to the fielder! Fullish on middle and off, O'Brien gets across and flicks it straight to Yadav at square leg. The Indian pacer makes no mistake and takes another safe catch. Shami picks up his second wicket and it's a key wicket of Niall O'Brien.
41.2 overs | R. JADEJA TO G. WILSON
OUT! Ireland losing the plot! Fullish on middle and leg, Wilson tries to sweep but the ball goes off the toe end of the bat and goes high up in the air. Rahane at short fine leg runs to his left to take a brilliant catch. Jadeja picks up his first wicket, doing the job for India
once again. Ireland slip further.
39.4 overs | M. SHAMI TO K. O'BRIEN
OUT! Edged and gone! Good length ball outside off, Kevin tries to push through the off side but gets a faint edge to the keeper behind. No footwork at all. The umpire has no hesitation in raising his finger. Huge, huge wicket for India. The dangerous Kevin O'Brien departs.
38.6 overs | R. ASHWIN TO A. BALBIRNIE
OUT! Ashwin gets another one! Fullish on middle, Balbirnie goes for the sweep shot but gets a top edge. The ball goes towards short fine leg where Shami takes a well-judged catch. Balbirnie departs.
36.6 overs | R. ASHWIN TO N. O'BRIEN
SIX! Wonderful shot! Flighted on off, Niall comes down the track and whacks it over the long on region. The ball goes all the way over the fence for a biggie. What a way to bring up your fifty!
31.2 overs | M. SHARMA TO W. PORTERFIELD
OUT! In the air... and taken! Fullish on middle and off, Porterfield strides forward and looks to play over the leg side but he is a bit early onto his shot. The ball goes off the leading edge and goes high up in the air. Umesh Yadav settles under the ball near mid off. Mohit Sharma strikes. Good knock from Porterfield comes to an end. The plan to go after the quicks has backfired for this Irish batsman.
17.2 overs | S. RAINA TO ED JOYCE
OUT! Bowled 'em! Touch quicker around off, Joyce goes onto his back foot and tries to cut but there is not enough room on offer. The ball goes through and hits the timber. Joyce is a goner.
14.6 overs | R. ASHWIN TO P. STIRLING
OUT! Ashwin strikes! Flighted ball outside off, Stirling comes down the track and chips it over mid off. Doesn't time it well enough as the ball goes straight into the hands of Rahane who comes forward from long off. Stirling falls, doesn't convert his good start. India finally get the breakthrough.
13.4 overs and 13.1 overs | R. JADEJA TO P. STIRLING
FOUR! Nicely played! Shortish outside off, Porterfield gets onto his back foot and cuts it quickly through the point region for a boundary. SIX! Fetch that! Another short ball, Stirling rocks back and pulls it over mid-wicket. It's been caught but by one of the spectators. Big over for Ireland so far.
7.5 overs | M. SHAMI TO P. STIRLING
FOUR! Nicely played! Shortish outside off, Stirling goes onto his back foot and punches it uppishly over the cover region. The ball goes past the fence eventually. Stirling looked in some pain when he was trying to take a single.
3.4 overs | M. SHAMI TO P. STIRLING
SIX! Now that's one way to get off the mark! Short of a length ball, Stirling says it's enough and pulls it over the square leg region. The ball goes over the ropes for a biggie.
2.2 and 2.3 overs | U. YADAV TO W. PORTERFIELD
SIX!! FOUR!! The Irish are here to compete. Porterfield is taking on Umesh Yadav.
What happened till now