We let England off the hook, says Ireland skipper

by Shahid Hashmi

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, March 31, 2007 – Ireland captain Trent Johnston admitted his team squandered their early advantage and allowed England to set a challenging total which proved decisive in their World Cup Super Eights defeat.

“We bowled well in the first 40 overs, but unfortunately it slipped away in the last ten which went for 90-odd runs,” said Johnston after his team’s 48-run defeat at the Guyana National Stadium here on Friday.

England, precariously placed at 172-4 after 40 overs, were boosted by Paul Collingwood’s 82-ball 90 which laid the groundwork for a decent 266-7.

Collingwood, who won the man-of-the-match award, hit eight fours and three sixes and added 81 for the fourth wicket with Andrew Flintoff (43) to revive England who were 23-2 at one stage after winning the toss and choosing to bat.

“We were outstanding on that wicket against the quality batsmen. Then we missed Boyd Rankin who left with cramps so we didn’t have a lot of options,” said the Irish skipper of his paceman who dismissed Ed Joyce (one) and England captain Michael Vaughan (six) to finish with 2-28.

Johnston praised Collingwood’s steady batting.

“It was disappointing to give so many runs, but you can expect this when you are up against a cricketer like Collingwood,” said Johnston. “We discussed his qualities because he can get a run-a-ball hundred and then chip in with wickets.”

Johnston said his batsmen consolidated their innings, but found it hard to score against the English attack.

“They got two early wickets. We were stuck in the middle against the spinners and couldn’t get back and once Flintoff returned it was difficult as the asking rate went up.”

Niall O’Brien (63) added 61 for the third wicket with William Porterfield (31) and another 44 for the fourth wicket with Andre Botha (18) before left-arm spinner Monty Panesar derailed the innings with two quick wickets.

Despite the loss, Johnston said he was proud of his team who reached the second round with a famous win over 1992 world champions Pakistan.

“The way we played against Pakistan, the warm-up match against South Africa and this match with England, it’s all another learning curve and if we improve I will be very happy.”

Johnston hoped his team can stage a comeback in the remaining five matches.

“The next game is against South Africa and that will be a tougher game because of the way they’re playing at the moment. We need to lift ourselves up by at least 25 percent to show our worth.”

Johnston disagreed they have still some work to do to silence the critics who have mocked their presence in the Super Eights on their debut appearance.

“We are not here to shame in critics. We are showing that there are good players in Ireland, and the goal is to show people back home that we can play cricket and that’s something we have achieved,” said the captain. (© 2007 AFP)