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Ireland take on the big guns in Bangladesh

Brнan O’Rourke


From the Emerald Isle to Dhaka

Despite our British Midlands flight being cancelled, our friends at Aer Lingus came to the rescue in getting us to Heathrow just in time for our connection flight to Dubai. At Heathrow we met up with the Scottish squad, who were most excited in the news that their group game vs India in Dhaka was to be televised live in Europe through Sky Sports. Their squad is managed by Willie Morton and managed by Sam Scott and contains many of the squad who were in Holland last July in the qualifying tournament for this event.

Ireland openers Gary Wilson and William PorterfieldIreland, Scotland, West Indies, South Africa and Pakistan all met in Dubai before travelling on to Dhaka. The bags of Andrew Riddles and Gary Kidd never arrived, but it is hoped we can pick them up tomorrow. The bus ride to the hotel was an experience in itself. For 90 minutes we drove at a slow pace as the traffic was virtually at gridlock. We eventually arrived at our hotel and soon after wandered down to the magnificent Bangabandhu National Stadium. We were quick to stretch the legs and set up a game of soccer but the groundsmen acted swiftly and sent us on our way, as they were busy preparing the ground for the opening ceremony.

Day one served as an eye opener for many of the lads. The poverty and living standards we encountered throughout the city today were incredibly low. We practice tomorrow before attending the opening ceremony and the following day we depart south to the Khulna region. Granted, the travel has left everyone very tired, but practice tomorrow will be hard (all have been warned) with no holding back. Let’s see how they perform.

From Dhaka to Khulna, as our opening games approach

We have made our way down to the Khulna region of Bangladesh and were given a terrific reception when arriving at the airport with the Pakistan team. As per usual the security presence was very strong and a two-hour drive had us into the city centre and into the Hotel Castle Salam. The four teams in our group all stay here (West Indies, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea & Ireland) along with many members of the press who are covering the event for the local and national newspapers.

Without a doubt the highlight of the trip so far was our involvement in the opening ceremony held at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka. Over 30,000 people turned up to support the start of the biggest sporting event ever to be held in the country. We entered the stadium fifth after India and just before Nepal. Having been addressed by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, along with various figures from the ICC, we then took our seats in the stands to watch the impressive dance and fireworks shows.

We received a serious lecture from the ICC on the whole area of corruption in cricket. Later that night several of the players received phone calls in their rooms from the ‘media’ enquiring about their forthcoming games and how they thought the Irish would perform. Bookmakers, it would appear will go to any length to obtain information regarding cricket matches…

We have practised on the last two days at the University of Khulna, about a 20-minute drive from the hotel. Today was the hottest we have experienced on out trip and several of the lads looked drained following the three-hour session. About 250 people were present to watch us and although not as big a draw card as the West Indies or Pakistan we are receiving a hive of publicity wherever we go.

We visited the Khulna Divisional Stadium in the afternoon to watch the West Indies play the first of their two warm up games at the ground that holds 18,000 and was built with this U19 World Cup in mind. Grounds advisor Andy Atkinson believes the tracks are the best in the country and it is thought that it will become a full Test match venue in years to come. It was good to meet up with Roland Sampath who is the manager of the West Indies side. Roland played for the CYM club in Dublin as professional during the 1983 season.

Having trained indoors from September last, much of the emphasis during our early sessions has been on ground fielding, catching and throwing. Many of the boys have taken a while to get used to catching the white ball but overall the fielding has been good. Porterfield, Blakeney, Pryor and O’Brien set the fielding standards for the team, while the batsmen have all worked hard in the nets with Adi Birrell. He has been preaching to them to come forward to the ball and to bat outside their crease against the quicks as the pitches so far have been very low and slow. Main seam bowlers Allen Coulter, Boyd Rankin and Kevin O’Brien are learning to control the white ball while the youngest member of the squad, Greg Thompson, has shown consistency and has fitted in well with the team.

Into the breach

Neither Adi Birrell nor I have not slept much in recent days. We cannot appear to put Monday’s game against West Indies out of our minds. We had a great chance of causing a major upset only for our batsmen to stupidly throw the game away. There was certainly an air of complacence within the West Indies camp. They rested star bowler Ravi Rampaul and certainly thought they would give our lads a sound beating. It certainly looked that way to start with as Xavier Marshall and Tishan Maraj posted an opening stand of 122 from just 18 overs. Marshall is a class player and will no doubt step up to the senior side in the next few years. We dominated the rest of the game and with a bit more experience would have won. The lads certainly learnt a lot that day and were shattered in defeat after the game.

We can have no complaints in losing to Pakistan on Tuesday. Eleven of their squad are full-time cricketers with their respective departments (provinces). Opening bowler Imran Pasha bowled a beautiful opening spell but the change bowlers Mansoor Amjad (leg spin) and Tariq Mehmood (off spinner – Muli style) were most impressive and caused all our batsmen problems. They knocked off our runs with ease with both Adnan Zaheer and Khalid Latif blasting their way to fifties. Having taken 5-46 previous day Greg Thompson went for 28 from 2 overs and is slowing learning the ups and downs of the game of cricket.

Four thousand turned up to our game against Pakistan and was also watched by ICC president Ehsan Mani, who was very impressed with our play during the morning session. T he Khulna ground is a treat and will soon become a Test match venue.

There were a few surprises in the group games today, with both Australia and South Africa losing to Zimbabwe and Nepal respectively. Australia need to beat Sri Lanka, and South Africa must win against England in order to qualify for the Super League stages of the competition. Otherwise we might be meeting them in the plate!!

The lads are ready to take on Papua New Guinea tomorrow. I missed the first hour of training today to watch them play against West Indies and to take notes on their various players. They qualified for this tournament by beating Namibia, Uganda and Kenya, and are quite a good side. Both Allen Coulter and John Pryor will make their first appearances in the tournament.

We have picked up a few injuries over the last few days but overall everything is fine. The food here in Khulna was not too bad to start with but there has not been much variety since. Rice, noodles, fish and chicken have been the norm most days. Today was very hot, over 30 degrees and all the lads struggled at training. We are not allowed to leave the hotel without the company of the police/army, and bars or restaurants simply do not exist here. We leave here for Dhaka on Saturday before making our way across to Chittagong on Sunday. The city, I’m told, is quite nice with some nice beaches (Bay of Bengal) close by. We could be playing the hosts Bangladesh sometime next week but only if we beat PNG.

Chittagong

Greetings from Chittagong, the second biggest city in Bangladesh and also home to the country’s busiest port. We arrived here on Saturday having flown from Kulhna via Dhaka to take our place in the Plate Championship. This week we will play Uganda, Canada and what could be a big game against the hosts Bangladesh on Friday.

Our final day in Khulna was spent watching the Pakistan vs West Indies game at the Divisional Stadium. The ground was packed with 22,000 people, all of whom were supporting Pakistan. The West Indies were no match for the form team in the tournament and replying to Pakistan’s 250 could only manage 90 in reply. Maybe our 142 against them the previous Tuesday was not a bad effort after all.

Eoin Morgan was Man of the Match for his century v UgandaTook the morning off today as we were given the afternoon time slot to practice at the local ‘Port’ ground. We paid a visit to the Test match ground, the MA Aziz Stadium, to watch Scotland vs Australia. Scotland, having won the toss, were bowled out for just 23 runs to continue their poor form, however they have played four Test nations on the trot now. I feel sorry for Willie Morton their coach, a man I have got to know in recent years from ECC tournaments around Europe. When sides do well their players are congratulated however if they perform badly it is always the coach who takes the flack. The Bangladesh side has been coached in this tournament by Australian Richard McInnes who has been hounded by the media due to their failure to qualify for the Super League stages of the competition.

The Bangladesh senior side are currently touring Zimbabwe, chasing their first test victory since the ICC granted them full membership back in 2000. Have been watching them play on TV and to be honest they are an improving side. Middle order batsman Mohammad Ashraful holds the record for the youngest ever player to score a test century (age 16) while left arm spinner Mohammad Rafique is as good as you will see at international level.

A big crowd again turned up to watch us practice today. The facilities at the ‘Port’ ground were fairly average but we came up with a few new games to keep the lads busy for the three-hour session. Transport to and from practice and games remain a problem. The traffic system at best can only be described as chaotic. It a matter of ‘every man for himself’ with buses, cars, baby taxis and rickshaws all fighting it out for space on the roads.

We have just selected the side to play Uganda tomorrow at the MA Aziz Stadium and the players to be left out for this game are Allen Coulter, Gareth McKee and Robert Rankin. Leaving players out of a starting line up is one of the more difficult tasks for the selectors. We do not know much about our next two opponents, however we have discussed our own strengths and weaknesses in depth and have devised a game plan that will hopefully see us through with two victories.

Onwards, & hopefully upwards…

The two victories this week at the MA Aziz stadium in Chittagong have left the boys in great spirits and all are eagerly awaiting news from the selection panel for the team to play Bangladesh at the Chittagong Divisional Stadium on Friday. Gareth McKee has had a recurrence of his old knee injury while Gary Kidd is the latest in the line of players to be suffering from an upset stomach. Although we have done the hard work by qualifying for the semi-final stages we will be all out for victory tomorrow, as by topping our group we would be drawn against Scotland, who qualified today by beating Papua New Guinea.

Our last two games against Bangladesh opposition (Khulna District U19s) resulted in two heavy defeats for our lads, however it must be said that the side has improved considerably since then. The batting against both Uganda and Canada was very impressive, while the fielding has been good throughout. In the bowling department our twenty overs of spin has been our biggest asset. The other 30 overs have been made up mostly by a combination of Eoin Morgan, Kevin O’Brien and Andrew Riddles. Sometimes it’s not the prettiest but it is very effective.

The locals expects a lot from the host nation who will include fast bowler Thala Jubair and left arm spinner Enamul Haque Junior who have both appeared for Bangladesh at Test level. Opening batsman Nafees Iqbal has played several senior one-day internationals while Naeem Islam and Nazim Uddin are both very capable players.

Still not a huge amount to do around this city. Tourism does not exist here, however we did make our way down to the local beach yesterday for some games of soccer and rugby. This morning we paid a visit to the Chittagong Club where we had use of the swimming pool and gym. We go shopping later today where the lads will no doubt stock up their levels of bats already purchased so far on this trip.

The Hotel Saint Martin has been very busy lately as Scotland, Canada and Papua New Guinea are all staying here as well as us. There is just the one computer so internet access can take time however the boys keep themselves occupied with CDs, DVDs and their own computer laptops. Most of them have given up on the local food at this stage but all are nearing the end of the food supplies that they brought with them.

The Plate semi-finals take place on Sunday and Monday next. Both have reserve days but with the weather we have had since we have arrived I don’t think they will be required. The Plate final takes place on Thursday at the Fatullah Cricket Stadium in Dhaka while the Super League final takes place a day later at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.

Prediction: Plate Final Ireland vs Australia, Super League Final Pakistan vs England...

So, how did Brнan's predictions match up to reality?  Read on to find out...

The Irish U19s made a disappointing start to their World Cup preparations with defeat to a local U19 district side in the first of their two warm up games in Bangladesh.  Following Gary Wilson’s early departure, Eoin Morgan and William Porterfield laid a sound foundation for what should have been a far more competitive first innings total.  Morgan timed the ball particularly well on a slow track in scoring 45 off 59 balls with Porterfield’s 28 coming off 79 balls.  At 88-2 the Irish were progressing nicely but the introduction of some good spin bowling caused the batsmen problems and despite some resistance from Kevin O’Brien (23) late in the innings they collapsed to a final score of 142.  The Khulna District side wasted no time in pursuit of their target, chasing the Irish score for the loss of four wickets in just 22 overs.

Kuhlna District Stadium, Khulna, Bangladesh – Thursday Feb 13th

Ireland U19s 142 all out from 47.3 overs (E Morgan 45, W Porterfield 28, K O’Brien 23, Sabuj 3-7, Samim 3-26)

Khulna District U19s 143-4 from 22 overs (Aslam 31, Ripon 43*, A Coulter 1-23)

Khulna District won by 6 wickets

Unfortunately things didn’t improve much the following day, as the Irish suffered their second defeat against the Khulna District U19s side in their final warm up game before the World Cup.  The visitors collapsed to 41-5 after an impressive opening spell from Bangladesh U19 squad member Jony, however small contributions from O’Brien, Blakeney, Kidd and Boyd Rankin down the order, enabled them to post a score of 128.  In reply Kevin O’Brien’s first ball clean bowled opener Sabuj and following the introduction of spin bowlers Gary Kidd and Greg Thompson, the local side were struggling somewhat at 75-5.  Number four batsman Ripon carried his side home with a superb 56 not out, however, dispatching Kevin O’Brien out of the ground to bring up the winning runs, much to the pleasure of the 1,500 spectators who turned up to watch the day’s play.

Kuhlna District Stadium, Khulna, Bangladesh – Saturday Feb 13th

Ireland U19s 128 all out from 37.5 overs (B Rankin 22*, P Blakeney 20, G Kidd 19, K O’Brien 18, Jony 3-30, Sabuj 2-17)

Khulna District U19s 131-7 from 36.4 overs (Ripon 56*, Babal 25, G Thompson 3-29, K O’Brien 2-32, G Kidd 1-36)

Brian O'Rourke coaching in DhakaKhulna District won by 3 wickets

In their first match of the World Cup, however, Ireland came within just 6 runs of causing a major upset in their Pool D game against West Indies (who went on to play Pakistan in the final).  The West Indian opening batsmen Xavier Marshall and Tishan Maraj tore into the wayward Irish opening bowlers and brought up their team’s 100 in just the 14th over.  The introduction of spin bowlers Greg Thompson and Gary Kidd frustrated their batsmen and although Thompson gained the honours with figures of 5-46, the 16 year old was first to praise Kidd’s efforts from the other end when conceding just 16 runs from his 10 over spell.  The West Indies finished their innings strongly scoring 60 runs in the last five overs to finish with at total 265.  Ireland set about their run chase in a positive manner with both Gary Wilson and Kevin O’Brien striking the ball fluently, putting on a partnership of 97 runs for the 3rd wicket.  Wilson was run out for 64 made from 92 balls, and O’Brien, promoted up the order following good batting performances in the warm up games, struck a brilliant 95 from 94 balls that included one six and 13 fours.  O’Brien’s departure, caught on the long off boundary with five overs to go led to a succession of needless dismissals and in the end Ireland fell narrowly short.  Although bitterly disappointed the Irish side could take huge credit from their performance and were able to go into their next match against Pakistan the following day in full knowledge that they could compete with the Test playing nations at this tournament.

Khulna Divisional Stadium, Khulna, Bangladesh – Monday Feb 16th

West Indies U19s 265 for 8 – 50 overs (X Marshall 83, T Maraj 38, G Thompson 5-49, A Riddles 3-42)

Ireland U19s 259 for 9 – 50 overs (K O’Brien 95, G Wilson 64,  L Simmons 2-48)

West Indies won by 6 wickets

Having been narrowly beaten by West Indies the previous day, Ireland could have no complaints when they lost to a far superior Pakistan side (who went on to win the tournament) in their second game of the pool stages.  Ireland started the game very well with openers William Porterfield and Gary Wilson sharing an opening stand of 54 before Wilson departed lbw, becoming the first of wrist spinner Mansoor Amjad’s four victims. Pakistan used four spin bowlers during the innings, causing all the batsmen problems and Ireland finished with a total of 142 thanks to Donemana batsman Andrew Riddles who finished undefeated with 35 runs.  The Pakistan openers Khalid Latif and Adnan Zaheer batted most impressively with Latif bringing up his fifty in just 42 balls including eight fours and two sixes.  He was dismissed when top edging Eoin Morgan to fine leg, however his opening partner Zaheer then took the initiative and punished all the Irish bowlers, finishing with 64 runs including ten fours and a six.

Khulna Divisional Stadium, Khulna, Bangladesh – February 17th 2004

Ireland U19s 142 all out from 47.5 overs (A Riddles 35*, W Porterfield 29, G Wilson 23, M Amjad 4-28)

Pakistan U19s 146-2 from 25.2 overs (A Zaheer 64*, K Latif 50, E Morgan 1-26, G Kidd 1-29)

Pakistan won by 8 wickets

In their next match, Ireland U19s eased to a 70 run victory over Papua New Guinea to ensure 3rd position in Group D.  After Gary Wilson’s entertaining 36 runs opening the innings, Ireland at one stage slipped to 70-4, but thanks to a stand of 67 runs between Andrew Riddles and Peter Blakeney, they managed to post a competitive total of 212, that in the end was to prove out of reach for the Papua New Guinea batsmen.  Man of the Match Riddles dismissed opener Kupana Amini in his second over and then clean bowled the dangerous Assad Vala who had scored 80 against West Indies the previous day.  Left arm spinner Gary Kidd finished with figures of 3-36 while seam bowler Allen Coulter, playing his first game in the competition, grabbed 2-27.

Khulna Divisional Stadium, Khulna, Bangladesh – February 19th 2004

Ireland U19s 212 all out from 49 overs (A Riddles 37, G Wilson 36, P Blakeney 27, J Pryor 25, V Vali 4-40)

Papua New Guinea U19s 142 all out  38.2 overs (J Boto 31, G Kidd 3-36, A Coulter 2-27)

Ireland won by 70 runs

The Irish then made their way to Chittagong, where they took on Uganda in their opening pool game of the Plate competition.  Eoin Morgan was the star of the day as Ireland beat Uganda by 123 runs, taking advantage of an excellent batting wicket to score 117 from 129 balls. The left handed batsman who will continue to play professionally at Middlesex this summer hit 15 boundaries during his stay and shared a match winning 3rd wicket stand of 166 runs with Kevin O’Brien who himself scored 70.  Simon Wells’s 33 towards the end of the innings came from just 11 balls in what turned out to be an excellent batting display by the Irish side.  Uganda lost two early wickets in reply but had posted their 100 as early as the 14th over, however the introduction of spin bowling pair Greg Thompson and Gary Kidd slowed the Ugandan response and they never really threatened to chase the large Irish score.

MA Aziz Stadium, Chittagong, Bangladesh – February 23rd 2004

Ireland U19s 329-9  50 overs (E Morgan 117, K O’Brien 70, S Wells 33, W Porterfield 31, I Emmanuel 2-32)

Uganda U19s 206 all out  45.2 overs (D Arinaitwe 42, B Rankin 2-43, E Morgan 2-26, G Thompson 2-22, G Kidd 2-17)

Ireland won by 123 runs

Ireland then notched up a convincing 155 run victory over Canada.  Batting first on another excellent wicket, Ireland were always in control, compiling a score of 265-9 from their allotted 50 overs.  Railway Union allrounder Kevin O’Brien scored his 3rd fifty of the tournament (51) while there were also useful contributions from Eoin Morgan (44) and captain William Porterfield (42).  Bready’s Robert Rankin made the most of his promotion to the side with 39 runs from 36 balls batting at number seven.  Canada always struggled in their reply with opening bowlers Eoin Morgan and Andrew Riddles reducing them at one stage to 17-4 from the first eight overs.

MA Aziz Stadium, Chittagong, Bangladesh – February 25th 2004

Ireland U19s 265-9  50 overs (K O’Brien 51, E Morgan 44, W Porterfield 42, R Rankin 39*, S Wells 28, K Jethi 2-40)

Canada U19s 110 all out  34.3 overs (A Keshvani 29, A Riddles 2-29, E Morgan 2-26, R Rankin 2-14)

Ireland won by 155 runs

Ireland then faced a difficult encounter with host nation Bangladesh, and with relatively easy wins against ICC associate country sides earlier in the week, Ireland found the step up to full Test playing opposition too much.  Opting to bat on a slow surface the visitors did start well and found themselves in a good position at 74-1 before two needless run outs accounted for Ireland's best batsmen, Eoin Morgan and Kevin O’Brien.  Not surprisingly Bangladesh played just two seam bowlers along with four spinners which in this World Cup tournament seems par for the course.  Left arm spinner Enamul Haque Jnr who played in the recent Test series against England proved very difficult to score against while off spinner Nadif Chowdhury claimed 4-14 bowling from the opposite end.  Nafees Iqbal, another who has represented Bangladesh at senior international level, batted quite superbly scoring 86 not out from 106 balls (15 fours and 1 six) to see his side home by an 8 wicket margin.

Divisional Stadium, Chittagong, Bangladesh – February 27th 2004

Ireland U19s 141 all out 46.4 overs (W Porterfield 34, G Wilson 18, K O’Brien 17, R Rankin 17, N Chowdhury 4-14, E Haque Jnr 1-18)

Bangladesh U19s 143-2 in 30 overs (N Iqbal 86*, G Thompson 1-35, G Kidd 1-44)

Bangladesh won by 8 wickets

This left Ireland facing the more difficult semi-final game against current world champions Australia, leaving Bangladesh to take on fellow European qualifiers Scotland, who had also qualified for the semi-final stages following victories over Nepal and Papua New Guinea.

Electing to bat first on another excellent strip and fast outfield, the Australian batsmen showed just why they were the current U19 World Champions when compiling 340-5 in their 50 overs.  All the Irish bowlers took their share of punishment, the Australian batsmen being particularly severe on the seam bowlers who too often strayed in their line and length.  Western Australian opening batsman Theo Doropoulos scored 83 off 82 balls before edging Greg Thompson to Gary Wilson behind the wicket while Mathew Harrison helped himself to 14 boundaries in compiling 91 from just 78 balls.  To their credit the Irish openers wasted no time in their pursuit of the huge Australian total with Gary Wilson and William Porterfield sharing a stand of 75 runs in just 11 overs, before Wilson departed playing on to a delivery from left arm seamer Gary Putland.  Eoin Morgan again batted impressively, and while he was present at the crease Ireland always held on outside chance of victory.  His innings came to an end when caught at mid wicket, attempting another boundary, for 65 runs.  This innings then lost its momentum, however some lusty blows from tailender Allen Coulter (38*) along with 29 not out from Andrew Riddles, enabled Ireland to finish their innings with a very respectable 291-9 from 50 overs.

MA Aziz Stadium, Chittagong, Bangladesh – February 29th 2004

Australia U19s 340-5  50 overs (M Harrison 91, T Doropoulas 83, T Paine 45, K O’Brien 2-70, G Thompson 2-48)

Ireland U19s 291-9  50 overs (E Morgan 65, G Wilson 48, W Porterfield 44, A Coulter 38*, A Riddles 29*)

Australia won by 123 runs

Commenting on the side’s performances in Bangladesh over the past three weeks, coach Adi Birrell was quick to praise his players. “We showed that we were the best of the Associate countries at the tournament and put up very good performances against both West Indies and Australia.  This just shows that more exposure against the Test playing countries will enable the players to compete favourably at this higher level.  I’m sure the experience of this World Cup will benefit the players in their cricketing careers”.