Cricket: Outclassed Ireland exit with heads held high
Ireland will fly home from the World Cup with heads held high after a 131-run defeat by South Africa in Calcutta last night ended any outside chance of the Green Machine reaching the quarter-finals.
For the first time in five Group B matches, Ireland lost heavily to a major side, but even then South Africa knew they had been in a game after being put into bat and slumping to 117-5.
JP Duminy led their recovery with an intelligent 99 from 103 balls, and a total of 272-7 always looked beyond Ireland on a pitch that was not the beauty that had been promised by Eden Gardens.
Too many wickets were lost too early in the reply and although Kevin O'Brien walked out to bat with exactly the same runs needed -- 222 -- as when he appeared against England, there was to be no second triumph.
O'Brien holed out to long-off for 19 after striking two fours, only Gary Wilson bettered him with 31 and a flock of black crows were circling like vultures long before Ireland were bowled out for 141 in the 34th over.
"I wouldn't say it was too many to chase, we weren't distraught at half-time," Ireland skipper William Porterfield said. "We just kept losing wickets out there -- and you have to keep wickets in hand to chase down totals like that. We were in a great position when South Africa lost their fifth wicket but you have to give credit to Duminy and how well he batted -- (in hindsight) I don't think I would have done anything different.
"Then South Africa came out and bowled really well, but we're disappointed the way we ended this match, because of its importance and after bowling and fielding pretty well."
If there was a World Cup for ground fielding, Ireland would be finalists at least -- and probably win it -- after two more stunning run-outs yesterday to send back veteran top-order batsmen Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis.
Smith was beaten by John Mooney's direct hit from mid-wicket as he dived to get back in, while a combination of Porterfield's throw and Niall O'Brien's quick gloves also found Kallis a few inches short.
Ireland's hands were not so impressive, though, despite George Dockrell's tremendous early snaffle at third man and Kevin O'Brien holding a fine catch, running back from mid-off, to deny Duminy his century in the final over.
O'Brien was only partly making up for earlier spilling a fierce chance at short extra cover, offered by Morne van Wyk, who was then dropped at first slip by Paul Stirling and went on to make 42 from 41 balls.
Dockrell bowled Van Wyk with one that kept low to slow South Africa's advance and only 34 came from the next 11 overs as Kallis was followed back by Faf du Plessis, caught at slip off Stirling. The Proteas have a policy of playing seven batsmen and it paid off handsomely when Colin Ingram joined Duminy to add 87 for the sixth wicket.
By the time Trent Johnston got one through Ingram's defences to bowl him for 46, the game had slipped.
After the break, Ireland lost both openers to Morne Morkel within four overs -- Porterfield held at first slip and Stirling at second -- when perhaps a more measured approach against the world's best pace attack was required. Niall O'Brien defiantly struck Morkel over long on for a memorable six before he was caught behind charging at Kallis, and after playing himself in, Ed Joyce missed with a sweep and was lbw for 12.
Only Wilson exceeded expectations with the bat, pulling a six over mid-wicket and adding four fours, but when he fell lbw to the left-arm spin of Robin Peterson, any lingering hope departed with him.
Ireland face the Netherlands -- who have yet to win a game -- in their final Group B match on Friday.