T20 World Cup: ‘One eye on screen, the other on the heavens’ – Ireland’s Simi Singh narrates dressing room emotions during last stages of England match

Simi Singh didn’t play against England because the team management decided to pick an extra seamer looking at the overcast conditions in Melbourne. He was replaced by medium pacer Fionn Hand, who might have bowled the ball of the tournament to knock out Ben Stokes.

The 35-year-old narrated the raw emotions in the Irish dressing room after they upstaged England by five runs on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method.

The last over

“It started raining heavily when (Gareth) Delany started the last over (15th of the England innings). One eye was on the big screen, where they were showing the DLS score, and the other was on heaven. We were keenly following the DLS score. Everyone was hoping for the rain to stay on, and it did,” Singh told The Indian Express from Melbourne.

“When we actually found out that we had won the match, everyone started celebrating in the changing room. Everyone started hugging each other, and there were tears in almost every eye. We’re all numb. Beating England is huge, and that too at the MCG, where Ireland was playing for the first time. It was the icing on the cake.”

Moeen’s charge

However, there were nerves when Moeen Ali switched gears, and no one in the Irish dressing room was moving.

“None of us moved until the players started walking off the ground. If that over would have gone on, they (England) could have gone ahead of us. They were only behind by five runs, three balls were left, and Moeen Ali knew about it. But it was our day,” Singh said.

From Bangalore to Melbourne

Eleven years ago, it was a herculean effort from Kevin O’Brien, who stunned England with the fastest hundred in ODI World Cup history as Ireland secured a monumental three-wicket triumph over their Big Brothers.

Singh feels the Melbourne win ranks right up there with the Bangalore one.

“The win in Bangalore inspired a generation of cricketers. The likes of (Harry) Tector, (Curtis) Campher, (Josh) Little, all of them started playing cricket after that Kevin O’Brien show. This win in Melbourne will inspire the next generation. It is right up there with Bangalore,” he said.

The rivalry

Not many would have given Ireland a chance against England. But Singh says, be it hockey, rugby, football or cricket, Irish teams will never go down easily against England.

“Every time Ireland plays against England in any sport, it is a big rivalry. To be able to beat them, with the resources we have, is surreal. It is a huge day for Ireland cricket,” he said.

A tricky chase

Ireland was 92-1 after 10 overs, but lost momentum in the second half of their innings.

“After 10 overs, we’re hoping somewhere close to 180-200. We didn’t finish as well as we would have liked. It was a par score. But with the kind of wicket it was, we knew that if we bowled in the right channel, it would be a tricky chase. With the bigger boundaries, we always knew that we were in the game,” said Singh, who has played 35 ODIs and 53 T20Is for Ireland.

Cricket in Ireland

Singh, who moved to Ireland in 2005 to pursue a hotel management course, has seen the change in Irish cricket from close quarters.

“When I came here, the cricket culture in Ireland was taking baby steps, simply because as a field sport, it comes after football, rugby and hockey. Not everyone wants to play cricket. But over the years, I have seen cricket growing in Ireland. Kids are playing cricket in public parks. That is a huge thing,” he said.

“Cricket has become more professional. The facilities have got better. Obviously, we are still nowhere near England, Australia, India or the other big countries, but still, with the limited resources, it has been managed very well,” he said.

Talent pool

Ireland are giant-slayers when it comes to ICC events. They had already eliminated two-time champion West Indies in the preliminary stage of this tournament. A few months back, they came close to beating India and New Zealand in T20Is.

“Talent has always been there in Ireland. Despite being such a small cricketing community, we keep producing world-class cricketers who are enough to beat teams like England. We came close to winning against India and gave stiff competition to New Zealand.

“Cricket is becoming popular, it is on the rise, and this win will start a cricketing revolution,” Singh signed off.

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