Ireland celebrating the win against England. (Image: @cricketireland - Twitter)

Ireland marked the occasion of their first ever game at the MCG with a rain affected win over a lacklustre England to blow Group 1 of the Super 12s wide open

Victories against your closest neighbours are always sweet.

They’re even sweeter when they come in big meaningful competitions like a World Cup in famous sporting colosseums.

On a day when Ireland’s national cricket team played their first official game at the MCG, they, and Melbourne’s weather teamed up to cause another group one upset, defeating England by 5 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis method to blow group one even further wide-open.

After losing the toss and being asked to bat first, Ireland seized control in the first ten overs, taking advantage of some loose English bowling and inconsistency in the field.

Captain Andy Balbirnie and experienced opener Paul Stirling signaled their intent in the opening, backing back and swinging hard using the pace and bounce in the MCG pitch to their advantage. By the end of the powerplay, Ireland had lost Paul Stirling playing with hard hands, caught at fine leg by Sam Curran, but was on the way to setting a strong target, pouncing on a lose and scattergun Chris Woakes, reaching 1/59 after the first six overs.

By the drinks break, Ireland had ticked over the scoreboard to 1/92 and was poised to set a big total. A stroke of luck, falling against the Irish this time triggered a steady collapse of wickets after the drinks break, Losing 9/54 in 45 deliveries to be bowled out for 157 inside the 20 overs.

Speaking to the media post-game, Ireland captain, Andy Balbirnie, who was awarded player of the match for his steady and measured 62 off 47 balls, said he was pleased with the batting efforts of his side but knew full well that there was plenty of runs theft out on the wide expanses of the MCG.

“We batted pretty well but we were disappointed with how we batted at the end” [of our innings] Balbirnie said.

“We felt that 175, 180 was a good score, we were under par but the way these guys play, we knew we would get chances if we bowled pretty well.

“We didn’t take all the chances but we took the important ones in the end”

Ireland’s bowling innings couldn’t have gotten off to a better start with the dangerous Jos Buttler nicking behind to the keeper on the second ball of the innings for a duck with fellow danger men Alex Hales and Ben Stokes also dismissed before the powerplay was over to leave England reeling at 3/37 after the first six overs.

Balbirnie was full of praise of his bowling unit who all shared the wickets around.

“I think all the bowlers had an impact today in different ways,” he said.

“When you’re playing a team like England, the all-round game these batters have, they’re (the bowlers0 are going to be under the pump from ball one in their spell no matter what overs they’re bowling.

“We wanted to be aggressive, we wanted wicket-taking bowlers. I think we did that. We created chances as well.

“The big ground suited us….. I’m very proud of everyone”

England continued to puddle along as the required run rate continued to grow. By the time Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone came together in the middle with the skies getting darker, the pair started to move and get up to the par score to make sure they were ahead of the DLS score as the cut-off time loomed and the rain arrived.

While the rain might have assisted the Irish in the end to have the result fall their way, England captain Jos Buttler was making no excuses about the weather and conditions.

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The England captain went on to admit that they had everything in their favour, especially after winning the toss and knowing that rain and weather would impact the game but credited Ireland saying the better team won.

“Where was the game lost? In the first 10 overs with the ball.” Buttler said.” We were a long way short of the standards we set ourselves in the game before. We bowled both sides of the wicket and we let Ireland get away from us.

“I think we were a long way short of the [required] skill level today. We didn’t perform well enough. It wasn’t that we were a little bit off; we were too far off.

“The better team won. Ireland outplayed us. They showed us how to bowl on that wicket.”

The result today is the second time that Ireland has tasted victory over their UK neighbours in World Cup cricket, following Kevin O’Brien’s heroics at  Bangalore back at the 2011 50 over World Cup.

The result at the MCG will live long in Balbirnie’s career as a standout moment in Irish cricket, and one he hopes can keep propelling Irish cricket. Not only in this tournament but into the future.

“I’ve played in this team for many years and we’ve never had a result like this,” he said

“Our T20 cricket has been hit and miss. It culminated in the first phase last year when we got knocked out and we needed to re-address what we were trying to do in T20 cricket.

“We knew the players that we had, we needed everyone to buy into how we wanted to play.

“We didn’t get the score we wanted today but guys were still trying to play that way, and I’m really proud of that”

” It’s an absolute pleasure to play here [at the MCG]. “It will always be special after tonight.

“To lead the first Irish team to ever play here, and we get to come back here on Friday which is such a thrill”

The result sets up a mouth-watering day of cricket at the MCG on Friday with Ireland returning to play Afghanistan before the heavyweight contest between Australia and England which could conceivably seal one nation’s qualifications fate for the semi-finals pending the result.

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