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Green peace, joy at Sabina Park

Irish players show how sticking to the basics and remaining calm can help in winning big matches, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.
None | By Atreyo Mukhopadhyay, Kingston
UPDATED ON MAR 20, 2007 02:42 AM IST

The Sabina Park witnessed a green revolution of sorts on Saturday. The men sporting the darker shade paled in the end against the unheralded ones with the fans in light green setting the stands alight in an unbridled outburst of joy that could only be sparked by such an unforeseen outcome.

Ireland's subsequent victory and the build-up to it once Pakistan had been mowed down for 132 were welcomed by a vociferous 2,000 from Roy Keane's country and also expatriates from other parts of Europe and the US.

Their left-handed wicket-keeper anchored the victory with the kind of authority the former Manchester United stalwart often displayed and rued the fact he was penalised for a rush of blood before the job had been done.

"It's a fantastic feeling having got those runs, but I should have stayed till the end. I was lucky initially, playing and missing a bit, but it became easier when the ball got softer,” said Naill O’Brien, one of the three Irish playing in the County Championship in a squad where the rest pursue other activities for a living. His innings and the partnership with elder brother Kevin drew a loud applaud from captain Trent Johnston.

A former Sheffield Shield player with New South Wales, Johnston also said it was most heartening to win after coming under pressure. "They had the bowlers who are used to handling these situations day in and day out, while we were not. To come out from that spot was most satisfying and the O'Brien brothers played really well."

The 33-year-old who played a part in a small yet crucial eighth-wicket stand with Kevin claimed they were not flustered after losing three quick wickets to be reduced to seven with 15 more to get. "We knew there were lots of overs and their main bowlers would be through in the end. So we just decided to play straight and back ourselves," said Johnston before leaving for a hospital to check out a shoulder injury sustained while fielding.

"I will miss the party but the support was magnificent. They (crowd) were phenomenal. I am sure, back in Ireland people are going crazy in the pubs. That's the biggest satisfaction."

Cricket is apparently receiving huge coverage there and quite a few journalists from newspapers, radio and TV channels are following the team.

Coach Adrian Birrell revealed he was not so calm and had to come out of the dressing room. "I am not a great watcher. The players will tell you that. When I feel it may have a negative effect on them, I move out," said the South African who is set to return home after the World Cup.

The former Eastern Province player accepted it was good to play against a top team that was missing a few top players. "Obviously they were under-strength. But that was their best XI we could have faced here. We won a big toss and after that they didn't bat well."

Outside, the Blarney Army was preparing for a nightlong bash at Ocho Rios, a beach resort outside Kingston. "I am sure there will be headaches in the morning but nobody will mind," said a fan leaving the party stand with a few of his companions already walking unsteady.

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