7 Reasons Ireland Didn’t Beat England At Cricket Yesterday
If you’re a cricket lover, or if you’re following the Cricket World Cup (which isn’t really cricket) and you’re English, you might be happily going about your March 2nd business right now vaguely aware that you seem to have had some sort of strange and improbable nightmare last night. And you’re right. It is still Wednesday and you’ve had a bit of a funny dream. I know I have. Here are seven reasons why.
1. It’s Too Conflicting. The English, as popular opinion would have it, love an underdog. And it’s true, we do. There’s nothing that the English like to do more than cheer on plucky minnows. We love to see Italy do well in the Six Nations; we love to see Scotland do well at football; we love to see Malta do well at absolutely bloody everything and, had Ireland been playing any other nation yesterday (except Malta), we would have been cheering them on with cries of “Play up, Ireland” and “Hurrah for the Patricks”. But they weren’t playing anyone else. They were playing us. And we were the overdog. This was somewhat conflicting. Because it was nice to see the plucky Irish do well during the cricket, it was heart-warming even, and to someone who fancies that he has some modicum of appreciation for the game, it was enjoyable. But then it slowly began to look like they might actually beat us and suddenly the thin veneer of being a fair-minded Englishman that appreciates a fine performance (even by an opponent) began to dissipate and I realised that I wasn’t quite the sporting chap I imagine myself to be. I discovered that I am, in fact, the sort of Englishman who would happily don a pith helmet and mow down colonials with a Gatling gun if it meant a victory in war or sport for dear old Blighty. No one needs to find that out about themselves when they’re trying to enjoy the cricket. I started the match as a good, upright, moral chap and finished it as a cruel, bloodthirsty, avaricious monster. Albeit one with a nice hat. But this can’t really have happened, because I’m certain that, at heart, I’m a thoroughly nice chap.
2. The Irish Don’t Even Play Cricket. I know about Irish sport; I’ve seen it. There are essentially three major sports there. They play football, like we do, but with muddier pitches. They play rugby, like we do, but with muddier pitches. And they play Gaelic-bloody-hurleyball-thing – a sport I once saw on Channel Four at three o’clock one morning in 1997 – which is essentially a mass-brawl in the mud which may or may not have sticks and a ball. And a net. None of those things even remotely resemble cricket, which is a game played in England, where children are given bats, balls and club ties at birth and spend almost every minute of every childhood summer – except when they are reluctantly dragged away to a tartan picnic blanket and force-fed cucumber sandwiches, orange squash and those Mr Kipling cakes that resemble gaudily coloured plasticine and make your teeth hurt – playing the game of cricket. And then when we grow up many of us carry on doing exactly the same thing, but with Pimm’s instead of the squash and if we’re very lucky, picnic sex. Though the infernal sodding cakes are still there. We have cricket, if not in our blood, then certainly in our souls and in our psyche, it’s a part of our national identity. We are prepared to play cricket from birth, it shouldn’t be possible to just to turn up with a horse and beat us at it. Which is good, because it didn’t happen.
3. There Was A Horse. I’m not going to knock Kevin O’Brien’s knock*. What he did yesterday was superb. He went out to bat and did what every young boy (and grown man and woman and just about everyone who’s ever had any sporting ambition/interest/has even seen a blade of grass) has ever dreamed of doing: He took a game by the scruff of the neck and improbably – almost impossibly – won it single-handedly, against the odds. It was amazing. He was magnificent. Unlike Irish people, however, I have seen Kevin O’Brien play before, and I know this. He’s essentially a lumbering big, ginger horse in a cricket uniform. Of course he’s going to be able to slog the ball around on a flat pitch, he could probably hit balls to the moon. What we needed to counteract him was a backfiring car. They always put horses off what they’re doing, I’ve seen black and white films and read Edwardian novels, and I know of what I speak. It’s just not possible that England’s enormous – and legendarily meticulous – backroom staff consisting of hordes of people with laptops that studied P.E. at university didn’t consider this tactic, not possible at all. As the saying goes: If you fail to prepare, you prepare to get spanked around the ground by a big ginger man-horse. And that’s what happened…er…didn’t happen.
4. It Isn’t Mathematically Possible. The Ireland cricket team represents both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. So England were playing two countries out there yesterday, and you might think that would put England (us) at a disadvantage but wait! The acronym ECB is short for The England and Wales (and some South Africans) Cricket Board, so Irelands two nations were in fact playing our three nations, all of whom are individually better at cricket than them. It’s not mathematically possible that they should have won, or geographically or historically. It’s just not possible at all, so it can’t have happened.
5. Available Talent. That Ireland don’t have any sort of cricketing pedigree is self-evident. But that’s not to say that Ireland is completely lacking any cricketing talent. That would be crass and simplistic. Because there is Irish cricketing talent out there. For there is a man born in Dublin who would get into just about any one day cricket team in the world; a man who won three senior cup titles for Catholic University School; a man who has a ODI batting average of 38.03; a man whose batting shimmers with inventiveness and audacity; a man whose bold stroke-play and natural ease with a bat is admired the world over. And that Irishman’s name is Eoin Morgan and he plays for fecking England!!!! Their best player doesn’t even play for them! He plays for us, so they can’t have won at all.
6. The Reaction. Do you know what the reaction in England to the Irish victory was last night? From people that don’t follow cricket as closely as you or I, people with children and lives and things, people that the news was only slowly filtering to by yesterday evening? The ones that I spoke to all reacted in exactly the same way with the same question. They asked, “Do the Irish even have a cricket team?” Every last one of them asked this. And in Ireland, I have no doubt that they were all asking, “Do we even have a cricket team?” I had to explain this defeat to a Frenchman last night – A MAN FROM FRANCE – and do you know what his first question was? I’ll tell you. It was, “Do ze Irish even ‘ave a cricket team?” I can’t begin to tell you how painful this conversation was. It was several minutes before I was able to turn the conversation to the efficacy of the Maginot Line. Several long minutes. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that we were playing a team yesterday that doesn’t exist. And they beat us.
7. It’s So Weird I Can Only Have Dreamt It. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but it’s fair to say that yesterday was a fairly strange day for me. Here are just some of the things that actually happened to me:
- I purchased Vaseline for my cat.
- I discussed the Ashes with a Frenchman.
- I witnessed a man request “A pint of the lager you have that’s most like Stella” at a bar.
- An Irish team that doesn’t exist beat England at Cricket with an orange horse.
So there you go. All of the available evidence is there and it points to only one thing: That yesterday was a really weird dream that didn’t actually happen. Any moment now I’m going to wake up and it’ll be March 2nd again and at some point later on today I’m going to listen to England thump Ireland at cricket. It’s going to be great. I can’t wait.
*That’s the first knock-knock joke we’ve ever done at 7 Reasons.**
**The second one will be better.