Andrew Balbirnie had never been happier to see the ‘rain come down when it did’. At the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday evening, Moeen Ali was slowly launching a fightback for England, when an incessant rain forced the umpires to call off the match and declare Ireland as the winner of the T20 Super-12 fixture.
Chasing 158, England was at 105 for five in 14.3 overs, with Moeen hammering a six at the start of Gareth Delany’s over and followed it up with a brace and a four. But with rain coming in, England was still five short of 110, the DLS par score at that stage.
For Balbirnie, it was a ‘surreal’ feeling to beat the arch-rival. “The way Moeen was playing, I was probably worried if they got another ball in. I said that to someone in the change room there. I’ve seen a lot of rain in my time playing cricket, and I’ve never been happier to see that rain come down when it did,” he said.
“It’s one of those moments when you’re always keeping an eye and see the dark clouds come in. You’re not sure whether it’s because the lights are on and there’s a lot going on. You’re starting to think, oh, should I have bowled a spinner? But it’s an absolutely surreal feeling. It happened so quickly…”
When the Ireland players came off the pitch, they were initially told there were 14 minutes until they would start losing overs. “I wasn’t sure if that was right. It was obviously a 14-minute cutoff. So it all happened too quickly to take in what we had just achieved,” the Ireland captain said.
Ireland had faced England just once in a T20I earlier, but that World T20 outing in 2010 was rained off. At the MCG, too, there was rain, but it went in Ireland’s favour. “We came into this round knowing that any win we got would be a huge achievement. So, to beat the best T20 team, in my opinion, you look through their 11 -- I looked through it this morning and I was looking at the matchups, and part of me was struggling to understand how we could compete with them…
The way Moeen was playing, I was probably worried if they got another ball in. I said that to someone in the change room there. I’ve seen a lot of rain in my time playing cricket, and I’ve never been happier to see that rain come down when it did.
— Irish captain Andrew Balbirnie
“But we knew we batted pretty well. We were disappointed with how we batted at the end. We felt 175, 180 was a good score. We were under par. With the way these guys, this English team plays, we knew we’d get chances if we bowled pretty well. We didn’t take all the chances, but we took the important ones in the end,” Balbirnie said.
The Irish captain was the mainstay with a 47-ball-62, while Lorcan Tucker pitched in with 34 as the side reached 103-1 in 11.5 overs. Ireland’s momentum was halted after Tucker was run out at the non-striker’s end by Adil Rashid. With Liam Livingstone and Mark Wood claiming three wickets apiece, Ireland lost nine wickets for 54 runs.
“We should have gotten to 170, 180, no doubt. That is something we’ll look to work on,” Balbernie said. “It’s not easy for new batters to come in, and you have someone like Mark Wood bowling as quickly as he does on a pitch that offered a bit of spongy bounce and was hard to pick up. We took our blows. There were a couple of helmet hits. I got hit in the finger. We rode the wave a bit and got the total on the board…”
While the middle-order collapse could have caused Ireland dear, in the end, it had very little consequences as the team grabbed two points with a surprising victory over a star-studded England.