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15 March 201508:12

Ireland v Pakistan, a Rivalry in Green

The winner will be rewarded with a place in the quarter finals while the loser could well board a plane home.

Ireland v Pakistan, a Rivalry in Green - Cricket News

On Sunday, it will have been seven years and 363 days since the first time Ireland and Pakistan played in a World Cup.

The stakes could not be higher in Adelaide on Sunday when Ireland plays Pakistan in the final match of the ICC Cricket World Cup pool stage.

The winner will be rewarded with a place in the quarter-finals while the loser will likely board a plane home, barring an upset in the match between West Indies and United Arab Emirates.

John Mooney has described it as the “biggest match in the history of Irish cricket” and the stage is set for an epic encounter, not least of all due to the World Cup history between the teams.

On Sunday, it will have been seven years and 363 days since the first time Ireland and Pakistan played in a World Cup.

It was St Patrick’s Day in 2007 and the scene was Sabina Park in Jamaica.

Current World Cup squad members William Porterfield, Niall and Kevin O’Brien were playing, as was current England captain Eoin Morgan, while Ireland had already had a good start to the tournament after tying with Zimbabwe in the first match.

However, Pakistan presented even tougher opposition, ranked fourth on the ODI tables before the start of the tournament.

Sent in to bat, Pakistan was soon struggling at 15-2 after Ireland made crucial early breakthroughs, removing Mohammad Hafeez and Younis Khan.

A brief recovery was ended when Pakistan lost 16-4 and not even a seventh-wicket partnership of 31 was enough to rescue it from being bowled out for 132.

Extras top-scored for Pakistan and Boyd Rankin was the pick of the Ireland bowlers, taking 3-32, while Andre Botha (2-5) and Kyle McCallan (2-12) were also exceptional.

Ireland had a tough start to a chase that was interrupted by bad light and rain and at one point was also 15-2, but a recovery led by Niall O’Brien’s 72 made the difference.

When he was stumped with 25 runs left to score and Ireland lost a further two batsmen shortly after, a glimmer of hope appeared for Pakistan, but a solid 16 off 52 from Kevin O’Brien guided Ireland home before skipper Trent Johnson hit the winning runs with a six.

Pakistan was eliminated from the tournament as a result, in an event the BBC described at the time as "unthinkable".

After the match, skipper Johnston struggled to find the words to describe the victory.

"I didn't do too well in English at school," he said.

"I can't think of a word for it really. It was just amazing. We bowled in some good areas, and some bad areas as well. Then Niall and Kevin batted fantastically well. And the support we got was magnificent."

Coach Adrian Birrell echoed his sentiments.

"You don't really expect to beat a Test-playing country like that," Birrell said.

"We're a side capable of upsets, and I think we drew on that belief. The way the O'Brien brothers batted, I can't praise them enough.

“This will do a world of good for cricket in Ireland. You've got to have Associates playing. If you didn't, you wouldn't have had Bangladesh beating India today, or Sri Lanka winning the World Cup in 1996."

Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq praised Ireland’s efforts.

"It wasn't easy to bat first but all credit to Ireland,” Inzamam said.

"They bowled tight lines and we played too many poor shots.”

Ireland has certainly added to its resume of impressive World Cup victories since – beating Bangladesh in the same tournament and upsetting England in 2011, before famous victories against West Indies and Zimbabwe this time around – but its first Cup victory against Pakistan is arguably its greatest to date.

One thing is certain – there will a new contender for the mantle should Ireland defeat Pakistan in Adelaide on Sunday.