Fri, Apr 20, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Irish skipper smiling despite heavy loss

END OF THE ROAD Farveez Maharoof and Muttiah Muralitharan were in the wickets as Sri Lanka skittled Ireland for only 77 in Trent Johnston's side's World Cup swansong

AFP , ST GEORGE'S, GRENADA

Irish cricket team captain Trent Johnston smiles as he sets the field during the ICC World Cup Cricket match between Sri Lanka and Ireland in St George's, Grenada, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AFP

Ireland captain Trent Johnston said not even an eight-wicket World Cup defeat by Sri Lanka could erase the memories of the reception his team received after their win against Pakistan.

Johnston's largely amateur side bowed out of their first World Cup tournament by being skittled out for 77 -- the lowest score of this tournament and the sixth lowest in the competition's history -- at the Grenada National Stadium in Grenada on Wednesday in their final Super Eights match.

But the 32-year-old Australia born all-rounder, who hit the winning runs in a three-wicket defeat of Pakistan in Jamaica last month in a stunning St Patrick's Day win that knocked the 1992 champions out of the World Cup, said he would never forget what happened afterwards.

"When we hopped off the bus after the Pakistan game and went to visit our family and friends in Ochos Rios, that was the highlight for me, without a shadow of a doubt," Johnston said.

"The reception we got ... I probably walked about two meters in 50 minutes just with people congratulating me, people wanting to talk to you and sign things," he said.

"That's never been seen before with Irish cricket and that was definitely the moment for me of the whole tournament. Spending time with our families, because they've sacrificed a lot for us to be here, it was a great night," Johnston said.

It was a different story in Grenada where Ireland never recovered after losing three wickets in four balls during pace bowler Farveez Maharoof's opening over.

Maharoof finished with four for 25 while Muttiah Muralitharan claimed four for 19 after the off-spinner was recalled following his omission from the defeat by Australia on Monday.

"We started quite well, 28 off seven overs. But then lost three wickets in one over and we never really recovered from that," Johnston said.

"Then you bring the best spin bowler in the world on, who we've never seen before, and you've got a recipe for disaster and that's probably what it was," he said.

But he said Ireland were glad to have faced Murali, albeit in a match that finished in under 38 overs.

"It's been a credit to us that every team has put their best team out against us because they know that we can play cricket and are potentially a massive banana skin," Johnston said.

"It's been fantastic. I certainly hope people don't remember us from that last game because we've had one helluva of a tournament," he said.

Johnston said the sadness of Wednesday's defeat was that it denied coach Adrian Birrell a proper send-off in his final match in charge before returning to his native South Africa after five years with the team.

"This tournament, and especially the Super Eights campaign, was something we wanted to dedicate to him and what he has done for us and for Irish cricket," Johnston said.

Phil Simmons is set to replace Birrell, but Johnston said he wasn't sure if he would be playing under the former West Indies batsman.

"I don't know if he wants me to be a part of it or if he's going to get rid of the dead wood and get the young boys in. I don't really know if I'm going to go on, it might be my last game, I'll talk to my family," he said.

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