This Ireland v Pakistan Test is a big deal and Ireland are treating it as a big deal. If feels the way international matches are supposed to feel.
Ed Joyce said that Test cricket “wasn’t even a pipedream” for Ireland’s men’s team until relatively recently, which really puts things in perspective. (And this is an All-Ireland team as well, lest we forget – which is not insignificant in itself.)
Tomorow 11 of us will represent the 688 who have gone before us. Thank you for paving the way for us to fulfill our dreams. 🍀 pic.twitter.com/ahPmpgw9h9
— Andy Balbirnie (@balbo90) May 10, 2018
“Test cricket is the best,” said Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, speaking to the BBC earlier this week. “It’s the pinnacle format and still has the perception of the romance of the game – if we were not playing it we would not be playing the best format.”
Deutrom speaks of cricket being the pinnacle in a way that is manifestly less hollow than when most other cricket administrators use that word.
Here are two other things he said, which betray a rare fundamental understanding of things.
Speaking about the fact that Ireland will only play a few Tests a year, he said: “We’ve an opportunity to create a brand around its sheer rarity.”
That idea, that scarcity can increase the value of something, is so simple and so important, yet it is utterly alien to cricket.
And amid all the hoo-ha and dumb ideas and market research, Deutrom also comprehends that something rare and with status can draw attention even in this age of supposedly shortened attention spans. Speaking about why Ireland want to play Tests, he said: “It’s also a means to an end; namely to popularise cricket and try to make it a mainstream sport in Ireland.”
On top of all the sense he speaks, the bloke clearly also absolutely loves cricket. Warren Deutrom is our cricket executive hero. We are going to get a grey suit with DEUTROM across the shoulders.
Now onto the match. Could Ireland win? Why not? We can think of two pretty major reasons why they might triumph.
(1) They’re playing at home and the weather forecast is pretty Irish. These guys know a hell of a lot more about playing in Ireland than anyone else does.
(2) Look at the Ireland team. Most of these guys will be more familiar to you than the England team. They have been playing together for years, they’re well-drilled and they have experience of giving a good account of themselves in big one-off matches.
That second point is so important. People often think that an international match is an international match, but do you honestly equate a dead rubber in a five-match bilateral series with a knock-out game in a World Cup or in World Cup qualifying?
Even if they recently failed to make it to the 2019 tournament, big matches in which the players absolutely have to perform are Ireland’s soda bread and butter. As they have fought their way to Test status, every game has mattered in a way that fatter, more complacent cricket nations cannot comprehend.
That fight also seems to have given Ireland a sense that Test status is actually something worth fighting for. Quite honestly, that is really very uplifting to witness.
We’ve been having some absolutely belting weather for the last week or so in these parts – but only on the sly. The gale force winds that have been partially masking things finally abated today and the lull revealed one of those perfect spring days that make you slightly less annoyed about your inability to think straight on account of having been woken up at 5am.
What we’re trying to say is that we didn’t watch England v Ireland because it was sunny out. We didn’t even listen to the radio. We just repeatedly watched that demented scene from Hard Target where Jean-Claude Van Damme punches a snake in the face before turning it into a lethal trap until our phone battery ran out. After that we just sat there.
Returning indoors, we see that England won. Hurray! Only not a real roaring ‘hurray’ because it would actually be quite nice if Ireland did well.
Unlike the first match, today’s fixture seemed more like a run-scoring victory.
That said, it did end how all matches should end – with a Mark Wood yorker.
Of course if that were mandatory, it would be very wearying for Wood, what with the obligation to deliver yorkers on demand for hundreds of different teams all across the globe.
We have therefore come up with three other acceptable match climaxes.
Reportage is going to fall some way short of our usual atomic clock level of reliability this week.
If by some miracle it should hit the heights of ‘patchy’ then you should consider that a win.
Yesterday morning, our cat Monty did a more than passable impersonation of Mark Wood’s backwards press run-up as he exited the house. Despite his unutterably poor track record of predicting cricket matches, we took this as a clear sign that England would beat Ireland. And so it proved.
We’ve just moved into a great fat wodge of one-day internationals and after flitting between the County Championship, the IPL and the occasional Test match for the last month or so, this is actually something of a relief. There is some sort of narrative to the next couple of months with every nation moving into 50-over mode ahead of the Champions Trophy.
So what can we learn from England’s first foray of the summer? Well, it was very much a bowling performance kind of day, so we should probably focus on that. However, there’s one issue we should deal with first.
If you’ve watched the grainy little highlights package of England’s wickets, this may have been a question you found yourself asking about umpire Aleem Dar.
Having resorted to a screengrab, we’re now confident that the answer is ‘beard’.
With that matter resolved, you can now watch the footage entirely liberated from difficult questions.
How good was @adilrashid03 today?
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) May 5, 2017
So basically, the big takeaways from this (mmm, big takeaway) are that Mark Wood pinged one straight through, David Willey swung one into the pads and then Adil Rashid sauntered in when people were trying to hit boundaries and encouraged them to mishit or miss the ball.
This is actually a pretty decent overview of England’s one-day bowling strategy. Every bowler has one main approach for taking wickets and Eoin Morgan tries to wheel them out at the best time to exploit it, whatever it happens to be.
‘Keeping it tight’ isn’t much of a thing any more. It’s really just a fallback.
Against Ireland again – at Lord’s on Sunday.
Our latest column for the Mumbai Mirror is about the unextinguishable rage of Ireland captain, Will Porterfield. You may notice that the column is titled ‘Bowzzzat!’ and they used the same line when flagging our piece on yesterday’s front page.
For clarity, our name is Bowden as in ‘bow tie’ and not as in ‘bow down’ so that title doesn’t really work. It’s too late now though. It’s out there.
For anyone skipping these pieces in the assumption that they’re ‘proper journalism’ – don’t worry, they’re not. They’re pretty much the same stuff we’d write here, only longer.
He’s kind of like a McBride, but saltier. With all of one first-class match and three one-day internationals to his name before today, he delivered the stupid figures of 0-26 off 10 overs against the West Indies – this in a match in which Ireland chased down 305 inside 46 overs.
We’d recently been thinking that the main problem with the Cricket World Cup is that there are always eight teams with a much better chance of progressing to the quarter finals than any others. No matter how you organise what precedes that stage of the competition, there will always be something of a tension shortfall.
But then there’s Ireland. You need 300 chasing in a World Cup and they’re your guys.
Sometimes there is cricket news that positively cries out for an irreverent article. In these situations, we know instantly that we should produce no such thing.
It’s usually the kind of news that people email us about; the kind of topic people think we would cover well. It’s usually something to do with Rob Key or Matthew Hayden. Most recently, we followed Ireland v England and like everyone else, noticed that England did well thanks to their Irishmen, while one of Ireland’s strongest performers was an Englishman.
There is nothing to say about this.
We need to state that explicitly. We need to write an article about how there’s no point writing an article because some part of our brain keeps telling us that there’s a really good way of covering this and that we just haven’t thought of it yet.
There is no good way of covering this. People can come up with their own jokes for this kind of thing. What would be contributing? Nothing.
Striking cricket news that is in some way amusing is not our niche. Our niche is writing about things that are boring and entirely unremarkable.
For example, we like Graeme Swann very much, but he sometimes skirts very close to ‘japes’ and ‘zaniness’. These are not topics we are qualified to tackle. Conversely, Jonathan Trott standing on the boundary edge, vacantly admiring the architecture of the stands, oblivious to the fact that he happens to be appearing in an international cricket match at the time – that’s the kind of thing that interests us.
So, regarding Ireland v England, the partnership between Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara was incredibly impressive considering the parlous situation they found themselves in. That’s all we have to say on the matter.
We’ll be back tomorrow with more high octane thrills. Sign up for the daily email so you don’t miss a thing.