ICC World Cup 2015 – Ireland v Zimbabwe, Bellerive Oval, Hobart

Ireland 8/331 (EC Joyce 112 (103), A Balbirnie 97 (79))

Zimbabwe 326 (BRM Taylor 121 (91), SC Williams 96 (83), AR Cusack 4/32 (9.4))

Ireland win by 5 runs

If you’ve arranged your ticket booking over a year in advance, it’d be fair to say the match you’re attending deserves the overused appellation ‘much anticipated’. Certainly on paper it’s the most competitive of the three fixtures scheduled for Hobart. So it is slightly disappointing to find only a bit over 4000 in the ground as I arrive with Miss 9 and friend in tow. Maybe local cricket fans have prejudged this fixture as lacking in the quality department, preferring to wait for Sri Lankan fireworks and an Australian exhibition against the Scots later in the week.

How wrong they turn out to be. When we get to our seats, beauties in the inaccessible-at-all-times-other-than-the-World-Cup Members Reserve, Ireland are in the 40th over (I’ve come straight from the airport following an interstate trip for work), and it’s clear they’re headed for a big total. In spite of the lowish numbers, this is one of the most spirited crowds I’ve seen at Bellerive, tight bands of national supporters creating the kind of fervent atmosphere that five times that number struggle to at T20 fixtures despite all the DJ exhortations there. The Misses 9 are drawn in immediately, my daughter appreciating the closeness to the action of the elevated Members tier, and her novice friend transfixed as well.

To top it off it’s a beautiful evening in Hobart, hardly a breath of wind, punctuated only by the flamethrower jets roaring to life twenty-odd metres to our left with every boundary and wicket. There are plenty more of the former than the latter as Ireland rocket past 300.

There’s a fly in the ointment though. Soon after we arrive, the main Bellerive Oval scoreboard briefly flashes up a summary score screen showing Andy Balbirnie on 86. It then disappears, to be replaced in succession by ads, wide angle video of the ground replicating what patrons can see directly with their Mark I eyeballs, replays of the previous ball, shots of people in the crowd, more ads…and no scores other than the team and over total jammed in the left margin. I wait in vain for the illumination of a full scorecard as Balbirnie continues to pile on the runs. He must be well into his 90s by now, I think as I continue to not see his score or anyone else’s on the scoreboard. For all I know he could be reaching 100 now only to have it greeted by silence as no one knows about it. Unfortunately he’s run out instead (for 97, as it turns out).

At the innings break I’m so incensed by the scoreboard debacle that I head for what is usually the Cricket Tasmania reception desk on the ground floor, and surprise myself with my vehemence as I vent my displeasure at the hapless ‘Ticketing Operations Manager’ who happens to be there. No ‘we’ll have a look at it during the debrief tonight’ isn’t going to cut it, mate, I’d like it sorted now, please. My bluster is to no avail as the scoreboard changes its modus operandi not one iota through the Zimbabwean innings. At least at one stage it does us the useful service of replaying the action we’ve missed due to our late arrival, including a distressing succession of Zimbabweans dropping catches. Only much later as we’re on a leg-stretching lap of the ground do I realise that there is an entirely new digital scoreboard screen that is in fact showing the scorecard – it’s just that it’s to the right of and behind the Members stand and thus completely concealed from me and the thousand-odd other people sitting in it. Not only that, it’s half the width of the main screen and the lettering too small to be legible from the side of the ground that it’s facing. Nice one.

Whinge over, back to the game. A clatter of early wickets has Zim 4/74, and it’s looking like the girls will be getting the early night befitting 9 year olds. But Williams and Taylor first dig in, then start to get going. As the entire sky begins glowing a lambent deep pink and the air cools, we appreciate the increasing frequency of heat bursts from the flamethrowers as the ball starts reaching, then clearing the boundary more and more often. But just as they look to be gaining the upper hand, Taylor goes – a brilliant 121, but Zim still need over a hundred more. Williams forges on with support from Ervine, then Chakabva. The gap between the Duckworth-Lewis par score and Zimbabwe’s total, which had steepled as high as 60-odd early on, is now in the teens. A kid from my son’s U13 cricket team is having the time of his life in the drum-boosted Zimbabwe cheer squad, if the pictures of him on the big screen are any indication. (Why aren’t you going for Australia, his team mates had asked him when he turned up to training in a Zimbabwe shirt. Too mainstream, he said. One to watch.)

Unfortunately the advancing hour and toey text messages from the missus tell me I’ll have to bail, right on 10 pm, over 45. We’re dependent on the radio from here on in. I feel better about this when Williams is dismissed very shortly thereafter. Surely it’s a foregone conclusion now, I think, we’re not really missing much. Wrong again, Zimbabwe surge once more, and the tension mounts still further. Unbelievably, as the last over commences Zimbabwe only need 7 to win, with two wickets in hand. My non-sport-appreciating wife is still recovering from the shock of being shushed by her daughter at this point so that she can listen to cricket on the car radio. But bang bang, the two wickets fall within three balls, and it’s over. Ireland have won by five.

We may have missed the grandstand finish, but it was worth it to get the girls into bed at a reasonable hour, stay in the wife’s good graces – and to hear the genuine emotion nearly overwhelming the Irish commentator on the ABC.

About Mark Duffett

Expatriate Croweater in Tasmania, still following Centrals in the SANFL. You can take the boy out of Salisbury, but...

Comments

  1. Good one Mark. The marketing hype screeching out of scratchy speakers at Subi/Patersons/Domain stadium drives me crazy. How can it be marketing if you can’t understand a word they’re saying.
    These clashes between the lower ranked countries have been the highlight of the World Cup. just as they were in the Asian Soccer Cup. Passion and joy trump technical acumen.
    Another Croweater expat eh? We’ll have to organise a Rulebook’s Home XI v Swish’s Expats XI contest some time. Jews, Irish and Croweaters have something in common.

  2. Well done Mark. To me this has been the match of the tournament. The closeness of the scores, the fluctuations , made it intriguing viewing. Sure there were no Steyns or Warners in action but both sides played fair dinkum ,cricket, aiming to win, as well as entertaing the crowd. Coming from Irish heritage i had clear cut desires re who i was supporting, but full credit to both sides for a thoroughly gripping encounter. Erin go bragh !

    Glen!

  3. Mark Duffett says

    Thanks, Peter and Glen. I’m afraid my ability is such that I would be fit only to score such a fixture as you suggest, Peter.

    I’m doing it all again as we speak albeit at the opposite end of the ground this time, writing from high in the newly dubbed David Boon Stand as Scotland’s innings shakily gets under way. It doesn’t look as though this match will reach the heights of the previous one. Though at least this time, every so often, the main scoreboard is actually showing the scores :)

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Match of the tournament so far in my opinion. Enjoyed the Irish win. Thanks for the entertaining write up Mark.

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