Ireland Win. Balbirnie. Tucker. England lose. Wood. Rain robs NZ of a potential point. And the Underdogs and bowlers World Cup.

Day 11 from the World Cup.


There are so many Ireland upsets now through their history that it is easy to see a game like today as just another win. This was not for many reasons.

Any win by Ireland over England in sport is something. There is the history side of this ofcourse, and many countries in cricket have. But they are also the small neighbours to a nation that invented a bunch of sports.

Then there is cricket; Ireland has a great history in the game. If you don't believe me, look up Ireland West Indies Sion Mills.

But cricket also struggled. So many people in the country hated it for being English, so they didn't develop as they should.

So you have a country oppressed by England, right next to them, who hated England so much they also tried to kill cricket there.

Cricket was the fourth sport they banned.

And so Ireland to beating them is like a double victory over the English. In a genuine sense, but also in a historic sporting one. It is - and shall always remain - a thing of wonderment, joy and beauty.

This wasn't catching them by surprise like Kevin O'Brien. And neither was a covid-bubble inspired second-string win like that ODI recently.

England have had been favourites or thereabouts for this tournament for a while. They know heaps about Ireland. Yes they have injuries, and we can talk about DLS, and England misunderstanding the pitch to a comical degree. But Ireland beat England at a World Cup that England were expected to go very deep in.

If you want the cricket story, Ireland were smarter today. They read the conditions beneath them better, they read the conditions above them better, and they played the better cricket. Better, better and better. You could argue they had the better of the conditions, but even when England had them in their favour Ireland were better.

This is the England team that has been thinking very smart about white-ball cricket for a long time now, and Ireland just towelled up the new management pairing of Buttler and Mott.

That is the cricket side of it, but let us first simply enjoy that Ireland beat England again. Put this way, if you are looking for any hope in the world today,  you found it in an algorithmically-inspired win on a dodgy wet wicket in Melbourne.


The first time I was told about Andy Balbirnie, it was in hushed tones by Irish officials. I didn't get it. They were talking about him as if he was the meaning of life, and I saw a player who really hadn't done anything yet.

Balbirnie was 27 at the start of 2018, the year Ireland would play a Test, and this chosen son of Irish batting had played 95 professional games. In fact, go back a year, and it was only 60-odd matches. And half of them came in 2015.

Andy Balbirnie was about to hit his peak batting age, but there was nothing in his record that said that was going to be high. In fact, from 20 first class matches he'd averaged 28. List A cricket he averaged 27. And in T20 it was 20 (112 strike rate).

Clearly there were signs he could play. He went to the Under 19 World Cup twice with Ireland, was in Middlesex's system from a very young age, and signed with them when he was still a teenager. But the Middlesex thing didn't ever really work. He was stuck in second XI for a long time. Then when that deal ended, other teams offered him trials, but no one wanted to contract him.

And part of the reason was his hip injuries. It was bad enough to scupper two good runs he had, and he had to get an operation. And so by the start of 2017, what you had was a player who hadn't been that good for Ireland, had never played much county cricket, and for a nearly ten year pro had barely played the game.

I made this in the middle of 2021, so everything clicked into place three and a half years later.

Until 2021 July.

This is where Balbirnie fell on the ODI runs scorers list then. It's pretty high for a bad-hipped, barely-pro player.

Until Jul 2021

And then if you look at his list A average, you will see the man basically doubles himself after that. The second lot is a lot of stronger opponents and actual ODIs.

As good as Balbirnie is, he still can struggle for long periods. It's probably what has held him back from playing Franchise cricket. At his best, he looks like a star. At his worst he is almost non-existent. Today was the best of Balbirnie.

And you look at him and think, what could have been if all this had fallen into place earlier. But the opposite is also true. If Ireland wasn't professional in 2018, Balbirnie is working in an office trying to convince the intern he knows Eoin Morgan. That is a victory for Irish cricket that in itself produced one of the great Irish victories itself.

Balbirnie went from a second-string county player with bad hips to the man who just beat England at the MCG in a World Cup.

Balbirnie & Tucker

So let us tell you how that went down. Balbirnie has had a mixed run of things with the bat recently. Still, in Ireland's other big win this tournament – against the West Indies – he showed flashes of what he can do at his best.

In that Hobart knock he was the junior partner in an opening stand of 73, still managing 37 from 23 as Paul Stirling dominated. Today he was the key man for his side. Ultimately, his 62 from 47 balls was practically double anything anybody else made in the match.

The loss of Stirling in just the third over could well have derailed Ireland on another day, but Balbirnie played an innings of real calm, happy at first to stick in and turn the strike over to Lorcan Tucker.

Tucker (the man with a name that seems to have come from a Young Adult adventure story) did well to survive his first two balls from Wood. Then put some real impetus into Ireland's innings early on.

He played a brilliant ramp shot for four and another boundary later in the fourth over as Ireland took 11 from Woakes' second over. The shot of the match though came as Ireland ensured Sam Curran's introduction to the attack was also far from smooth – six punched over mid on, all high elbow, to finish the powerplay in style.

Balbirnie was there as well to share the run scoring duties, and joined in on the Woakes-savaging mission, scoring 16 all by himself (including two 4s and a 6) from the 10th over.

Their partnership was really the only high scoring period of the entire game. You can see on Cricinfo's run rate graph that they this was the main difference between the teams.

England had no real answer to the pair, and in the end, their partnership was only ended by Tucker's miserable run out at the non-striker's end as Balbirnie drove Rashid down the ground. You can see Rucker's sad face peeking through the helmet here.

Those dismissals are unlucky at the best of times, but this one seemed particularly bad, the way Rashid slipped slightly trying to stop the ball, deflecting it perfectly onto the stumps with Tucker out of his ground. And it also wasn't hit that hard; there was time to get back compared to some.

The pair put on 82 together, more than half of Ireland's total, which is why they won the game.


​​England and certainly their supporters arrived at the MCG today with one eye on Friday's match against Australia. Thoughts of knocking out their old rivals and the tournament hosts are too sweet not to ponder.

They left with their tails between their legs and perhaps a little damp. They were deservedly beaten by Ireland and their own qualification for the semi-finals of the tournament now looking almost as precarious as Australia's.

England has been the favourites at times to win the entire tournament. This match against Ireland was expected to be an easy win. The pre-match talk had been about not underestimating Ireland and being prepared to adapt to situations as they played out in front of them.

It was ironic then that this is basically exactly where they failed. They were sloppy in their bowling to Ireland and mismanaged the run chase badly.

The rain that eventually washed out the game could be seen coming towards the ground for some time. While the DLS par score they were required to be ahead of was literally in 20 foot high numbers on a giant scoreboard above them the entire time. They couldn't say they didn't know what they needed to do.

Despite the depth of their batting,  they were either too hesitant or just plain unable to get ahead of the DLS par score. They eventually tried to kick on, but by then it was too late and it cost them the game.

It was a hesitancy and failure to adapt that has made their route to the semi-finals considerably more difficult.

Mark Wood

England are much more fun with Mark Wood in their side. England are also much better with Mark Wood in their side.

In the last game Wood bowled the fastest four-over spell in T20 World Cup history, and he was almost as fast today.

He was regularly over 150kph (93mph) and it was not just empty numbers, but potent too. The ball that dismissed Harry Tector was 153kph (95mph), and the one that got Curtis Campher just over 151 (94).

High pace does things to batters. Twice Wood hit Ireland's batters in the helmet. The blow that hit Delany nearly flew to the boundary off his lid.

England will just be hoping he can stay fit. Since his latest return from injury he has 14 wickets in 5 innings. He takes a wicket every 13.7 balls in T20Is, which is England's best-ever strike rate (min 10 wickets).

England bowling

While Ireland won the game early on with the bat, England also very much lost it with the ball. Chris Woakes in particular had a horror show - his first two overs went for 23. Sam Curran's first over then went for 14 as England conceded 59/1 in the powerplay.

Considering Stokes' opening over went for just three  it was a disastrous follow-up to that promising start.

On a pitch that seemed almost as bouncy as the one used in the India v Pakistan game, England looked guilty of overpitching. Their seamers bowled twice as many full balls as the Irish bowlers did. Woakes bowled an absolute snorter of a ball to Stirling in his first over. Back of a length that zipped through to the keeper – it was a surprise not to see him keep up at that length and he was punished massively for it.

Ireland saw a friendly wicket and tried to hit a good spot on it, with some well-timed short balls. England seamers scattered their bowling around like it was a normal T20 wicket. And you could how upset Wood was at their bowling at the change of innings.

But, it gets worse. Despite Ireland's struggles against spin, which we have covered on the Mood Board before, England were also guilty of persisting with their fast bowlers for too long. Woakes' return for the 10th over was a total disaster, with Balbirnie getting 16 off it.

When England did turn to more spin than just that of Adil Rashid – who was wicketless but contained Ireland well – it proved successful.

Liam Livingstone finished with figures of 3/17 from 3 overs, spin proving much harder to get away than pace had, and in the end, Ireland lost their last 7 wickets for just 25 – the problem for England was the damage had already been done by then.

Just to recap, their seamers didn't use the facilities well. Yet, they kept bowling them, knowing the Ireland struggle against spin. Then they gave their tweakers a go, and Ireland was bowled out in 20 overs. The team meetings on this one should be fun.


What an absolute shitshow of a points table this is. Group 1 looks like Jackson Pollock started throwing paint at a canvas before passing out. New Zealand is on top, but what a weird tournament they've had so far. They beat Australia and then lost a point they probably had pencilled in against Afghanistan.

We have had three weird results in this group so far, and they have all cost one of the favoured teams to lose points. Australia losing to New Zealand, England to Ireland and now the New Zealand washout. Afghanistan being on the bottom is probably the only part of this table that makes sense. And they haven't played Sri Lanka or Ireland yet. They'll be hoping for something there. Hell, they might be against England as well now.

This washout is great news for England and Australia, draining a point from the kiwis. However, this Ireland win is great news for New Zealand and Australia, giving them a current advantage over England. And all of this is great news for Sri Lanka, who if they can keep a seamer on the field, might suddenly find themselves in a position to slide into the World Cups DMs come final time. I mean, even Ireland must be allowing themselves a moment of, 'well I wonder if...'.

The next games in this group are Ireland vplay Afghanistan, there is more riding on that now. While Australia and England are playing what seems to be a near quarter-final, And the New Zealand Sri Lanka game now has a level of importance it did not a few days ago.

Me and Bharat called this the underdog World Cup after the first few games. And it has continued to be like that. Not all these are massive upsets, but these are the games where the bookies had a clear favourite and that is not how the result ended up.

I have seen people moaning about the rain, and I get it. But this has been a spectacularly interesting World Cup. We didn't know the pitches would be like this, we couldn't have guessed we'd have this many interesting games coming into it, and group one is a bit like we are letting a little kid decide where teams should go.

This World Cup has been absolutely nuts, and I am loving every crazy minute of it.