HomeCricketIreland struggle on farcical New York pitch as India romp home to...

Ireland struggle on farcical New York pitch as India romp home to victory


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T20 World Cup: Ireland 96 (16 ovs) (G Delany 26; H Pandya 3-27) lost to India 97-2 (12.2 ovs) (R Sharma 52; Ben White 1-6) by 8 wkts

The build-up to T20 World Cup matches in New York was dominated by talk of local law enforcement enlisting the help of snipers to beef up security. Ireland’s hopes of causing a shock in their opener against tournament favourites India were instead sniped by a farcical pitch, struggling their way against a rampant bowling attack on a devilish surface to an eight-wicket defeat.

Low scores in Monday’s first game at this venue warned that the playing surface would dominate the narrative of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) ploy to bring India to their vast expat community in New York. Instead of a crowd of 20,604 – in Long Island of all places – basking in a successful attempt to draw viewers to a new cricket market, excessive sideways movement and, at times, dangerous uneven bounce was all anyone could talk about as Ireland were bowled out for 96, a total which never challenged India, even in difficult batting conditions.

At times, player safety was a concern. Indian bowler Arshdeep Singh hit Harry Tector on the glove with a snorting delivery which zipped off a length. Tector was ultimately dismissed in similar fashion by Jasprit Bumrah, a vicious delivery taking the glove and looping into the infield for a simple catch. He took to the field in the second innings despite clearly nursing a potential injury.

In hindsight, given the difficult batting conditions, the toss was crucial. India won it and Ireland had first crack with the bat, a poisoned chalice if ever there was one. In the first six overs, Ireland scored just 26 runs, lost two wickets and failed to scored on 29 deliveries of the 36 bowled.

At one point, Ireland’s false shot percentage was the worst in the history of T20 World Cups. Some blows from Gareth Delany and Josh Little towards the end of the innings added some respectability, moving them up to only ninth worst in that list.

To what extent was that false shot figure of 43 per cent was caused by the vicious surface is difficult to ascertain, given plenty of Irish batters didn’t cover themselves in glory. In T20 cricket, movement off the pitch is expected for the first few overs with the new ball. Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie both fell in that fashion, Arshdeep moving the ball across the right handers with devastating effect, albeit Balbirnie won’t enjoy rewatching the foot movement and tentative prod which exposed his off stump.

Yet the global trend these days is not for the ball to still move sideways into the seventh over, when Lorcan Tucker was bowled by one which jagged a long way back in. Certainly not into the ninth over when Curtis Campher nicked a delivery which moved just enough in the opposite direction.

Plenty of Irish club grounds produce better pitches than this, but some Irish dismissals were still soft. Barry McCarthy chipped one back to the bowler with a tentative shot, Axar Patel taking a good diving catch. Delany, who threatened to take Ireland to a competitive total around the 120 mark with a late flurry of boundaries, was run out in a disastrous mix-up with Ben White. That one had nothing to do with the pitch.

Ireland’s lack of adaptability can also be questioned. For all the talk coming into this tournament of the side’s ability to take stock in the middle overs, assess conditions and set aggression levels accordingly, did they go too hard? Stirling, George Dockrell and Mark Adair all departed trying to play cross-bat shots over the infield. Was this foolhardy given the difficult of such strokes with the ball seaming around? Or perhaps, given the minefield of a surface, was the best approach to make hay before getting an inevitable delivery with your name on it?

India, of course, had to bat under these challenging circumstances too. The early dismissal of Virat Kohli, edging Adair down to White on the boundary, energised Ireland. Rishabh Pant, the normally destructive left-hander, struggled for fluidity. Rohit Sharma initially couldn’t find his timing.

Chasing only 97, though, India could afford some early nerves. Rohit quickly overcame his, pulling Little with disdain before climbing into Adair to bring up his 50 off 36 balls. India’s captain decided that was enough for him, retiring out in what looked to be a precautionary move after he too fell victim to the spicy surface when being hit on the shoulder. The required total of 97 was reached with 46 deliveries to spare.

Two things can be true at the same time. The pitch was a farce, an embarrassment for the ICC on a significant occasion for the sport. But Ireland also failed to adapt, ensuring a defeat which, while always likely, still felt needlessly comprehensive.

The good news is Ireland face Canada, a lower ranked side, up next. The bad news is the game is once again in New York, with conditions unlikely to change between now and Friday.

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