As the Proteas prepare for their one-off ODI against Ireland, we take a look at some of the great underdog stories, which often involves the Irish.
INDIA, 1983 World Cup
You have to look at the facts to understand the enormity of India’s achievement in 1983. They went into the tournament having never won a World Cup match against a Test-playing nation and weren’t expected to cause any damage to the likes of hosts England and favourites West Indies. A shock opening day win against the Windies set the tone, however, and they proceeded to knock England out in the semi-finals. Normality appeared to be restored as the Windies had them bowled out for 183, but India fought back to skittle the Islanders for 140, and defy the odds to lift the trophy.
ANDREW HUDSON vs West Indies
On April 18th, 1992, the moment had finally come for South African cricket fans. Ten players made their debut in what was South Africa’s first Test since readmission, and after being thrashed 3-0 in the ODI series against West Indies, they weren’t fancied to make an impact in the one-off Test against a fierce bowling attack featuring Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. SA pushed them all the way, and bar an astonishing collapse, should have won. This was largely thanks to a nine-hour epic from opener Andrew Hudson, who made 163 in the first innings. No South African would go on to make a century on debut until Jacques Rudolph did 11 years later.
KENYA vs Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s 100-1 odds to win the 1996 World Cup might not stack up against Leicester’s 5000-1 to win the Premier League, but it was still seen as a remarkable triumph. Seven years later in the 2003 World Cup they were on the receiving end of another scarcely believable outcome, as a five-wicket haul from Collins Obuya saw minnows Kenya beat them by 53 runs in Nairobi. Steve Tikolo’s side would revel on home turf to win four of their six group stage matches, before progressing all the way to the semi-finals. They’ve sky-rocketed down cricket’s pecking order since, but that was a tournament they will never forget.
IRELAND vs Pakistan, 2007
More World Cup action, more upsets, and you couldn’t make this one up. A first-ever World Cup appearance for Ireland meant no-one gave them a chance of being anything but the whipping boys. Their first match, against Zimbabwe, ended in a thrilling tie. But on St Patrick’s Day no less, the modest group of players boasting only a handful who played the game professionally, cleaned Pakistan out for 132, before holding their nerve to pull off a famous two-wicket victory.
IRELAND vs England, 2011
That victory in 2007 against Pakistan was enough to send them through to the Super 8 stage, which also included a win against Bangladesh. Four years later it was England’s turn to feel the full brunt of Ireland’s giant-killing knack. Half-centuries from Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell lifted the English to 327. With the Irish stranded on 111-5, a big defeat looked on the cards for the minnows, but Kevin O’Brien’s 113 off 63 saw them over the line with five balls remaining, in arguably their most famous win. Their next victims were West Indies four years later, and only net run rate prevented them from going through to the quarter-finals. With the 2019 edition being restricted to 10 teams, it remains to be seen whether Ireland will get the chance to inflict more embarrassment on the Test-playing nations.