Two unexpected results have elevated the Group Stage of the World Cup from a series of practice matches for the major teams into a serious competition.
Bangladesh are a test playing country but their record in both test and one day cricket has been poor. India have, at least on paper, a strong team and have, until now, been touted as possible Cup winners, so it was surprising to see them bowled out for 191 in 49.3 overs at Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain . Only Sourav Ganguly 66/129b and Yuvraj Singh 47/58b put up a strong fight against the economical Bangladesh attack, for whom opening bowler Mashrafe Mortaza (9-2-38-4) and the two left arm spinners Abdur Razzak (10-2-38-3) and Mohammad Rafique (10-2-35-3) were outstanding.
191 was something for India to defend against the often brittle Bangladesh batting, but while they fought hard they couldn't stop three teenagers, opener Tamim Iqbal 51/53b, Mushfiqur Rahim (who was dropped behind on 8), 56/107b and Saqibul Hasan 53/86b from getting them home by 5 wickets with 9 balls to spare. A magnificent win for the underdogs, who had only just heard the news of the death of Manjural Islam , killed in a road accident at home, and at 22 the youngest test cricketer to die.
At Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica Ireland won the toss and put Pakistan in. At first the innings followed a roughly similar course to India's: two early wickets, then a small recovery. But the Irish bowlers kept their heads: the third wicket fell at 56, the fourth (Inzamam for 1) at 58, the fifth at 66 and the sixth at 72. Kamran Akmal made 27 /47b but this wasn't the highest score of the innings: that distinction went to extras with 29, including 23 wides.
Ireland got off to a bad start: 2/15 (including Jeremy Bray, the hero of the Zimbabwe match) but William Porterfield dug in while Niall O'Brien looked for runs. Porterfield was out at 62, and a fourth wicket fell at 70. Kevin O'Brien joined his brother but rain stopped play with Ireland 4/81 after 27.3 overs.
The delay meant that the Duckworth-Lewis method was invoked, and Ireland was left a revised target of 128 from 47 overs when play resumed. At 108 Niall O'Brien was stumped for 72/107b. Two further wickets fell at 113 and Pakistan seemed to have a good chance of redemption. But it wasn't to be as Kevin O'Brien 16/52b hung in while Australian born captain Trent Johnston didn't wait around , hitting a six to give his team a magnificent and well-deserved victory. And on St Patrick's Day too.
Pakistan have now lost their two Group Stage matches so have no hope of qualifying for the Super Eight series. They will not look forward to going home earlier than they, and almost everyone else in the cricket world, expected, not just because they'll be shattered but because they'll receive a hostile reception from their supporters.
India can redeem themselves, but to be sure of doing so will need to defeat Bermuda (a genuine minnow) and Sri Lanka (a much tougher proposition). Not impossible but, on recent form, not probable either.