England may have ended the year as kings of Test cricket, but their schizophrenic performances in the 50 over format continued: a 6-1 reverse in the tortuous seven match series with Australia followed swiftly on from the Ashes triumph (as it had in 2009) led on to a dismal World Cup before impressive home series wins over Sri Lanka and India were quickly forgotten with a predictable 5-0 whitewash in India.
But nothing quite matched the utter shock of defeat to Ireland in the World Cup.
England appeared to be coasting after reducing the underdogs to 106/4 in their pursuit of an imposing 328. Enter the unheralded Kevin O’Brien to wreak a completely unexpected carnage on England’s bowlers.
As the first couple of sixes went into the stands, we chuckled in admiration of O’Brien’s pluck and thought (as O’Brien perhaps did himself) that he may as well enjoy himself before the inevitable last rites on Ireland’s innings were read.
But as six followed six realisation soon dawned that something quite spectacular was unfolding before our eyes. By the time O’Brien had reached three figures and recorded the fastest World Cup ton, Ireland’s day in the sun was almost complete.
England’s bemusing World Cup, which had already seen a narrow win over the Netherlands and a thrilling tie with India (featuring a monumental hundred from Andrew Strauss) continued.
South Africa were sent choking on their way, before Bangladesh handed out a further embarrassing defeat, which meant that England had to beat West Indies in their final match to get out of the group. This they managed by the skin of their teeth before succumbing by 10 wickets to Sri Lanka in the quarter-final.
But even if England had somehow managed to lift the World Cup, the abiding memory of their tournament still would have been the sight of the portly pink-haired O’Brien and his team-mates celebrating a quite remarkable victory.
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