The Windies have taken an unassailable two-nil lead in the three match ODI series against Ireland, claiming their second victory in an exhilarating one wicket win last night in Bridgetown. The final pair of Hayden Walsh (46*) and Sheldon Cottrell (7) nail-bitingly guided their team home, by chasing down the Irish total of 237 in the final over with one delivery remaining.
When visiting skipper Andrew Balrbirnie called correctly for the second time running at the toss, few were surprised at his decision to bat first on the same pitch that had been used two nights previously, citing potential wear, variable bounce and extra turn in the second innings as his primary motive.
His team in green started brightly at 25/0 after 4 overs, but regular wickets stifled the progress of the Irish across the opening exchanges. Paul Stirling’ 63 from 79 provided dogged resistance coupled with watchful defence and the occasional spark of fluid, attacking brilliance.
Stirling’s innings was characterised by a notably more watchful nature than a typical innings of his. For instance, Stirling played a defensive stroke to 30.0% of balls faced in this ODI, noticeably more than his career figure of 22.2%. This can be explained by the dismissals of Delaney and Balbirnie, and the lack of any meaningful partnerships being formed in the opening Powerplay. Sterling was eventually dismissed, played on for 63, from an awkward Alzarri Joseph short pitched delivery.
A man who is the early runaway candidate for man of the series, Joseph has taken 8 wickets for 64 runs at an average of 8.00 and a strike rate of 15.0 from the first two encounters. His identical figures of 4-32 from both matches mirrors his execution of a plan which the Irish are continually struggling to find an answer to. Bowl it in short, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Just like in the first ODI, Joseph attacked that awkward 7-10m length which has brought him so much success, with 33 of his deliveries pitching in this grouping. Once again, the Irish had no answer to this aggressive length surrendering 3 wickets for the cost of just 4.66 runs-a-piece.
In reply to Ireland’s 237, the start of the Windies chase stuttered and struggled to take off, and at 26/3 at the end of the ninth over, the Irish were firmly in the ascendancy. After a small recovery from Hope and Pooran, the chase was derailed in the 19th over when hope was trapped in-front by the off-break bowler Simi Singh and at 76/4, the game was firmly in the balance.
Kieron Pollard and Nicolas Pooran then launched a mighty counter attack against the Irish spinners, plundering 64 runs off the next 41 balls including 4 sixes and 4 fours. They looked set to continue this demolition of the Irish attack until a rain break halted proceedings and stopped their momentum in its tracks.
Balbirnie’s men didn’t have to wait long after taking the field for the game to take another exhilarating twist. The second ball after the restart claimed the wicket of Nicolas Pooran was a sharp turning delivery from Simi Singh. Pitching just outside leg stump the delivery gripped ferociously, beating the outside of Pooran’s defence, and crashing into the off stump. This delivery from Singh deviated a huge 6.458°, a great deal more than his match average of 3.683°. Pooran scored a blistering 52 from 44, including 29 runs off the spinners at a strike rate of 170.58.
After Pooran was dismissed, run-rate was never going to be a problem for the Windies, needing 97 from 143 balls for victory at just over four an over. Wickets however started falling at regular intervals and at the end of the 29th over, the Windies were 153/7, still requiring 85 runs to win.
Enter Hayden Walsh Jnr. Known primarily for his leg spin, and with a List-A batting average of 16.54, played a calm and measured innings with the remainder of the tail to lead his side to last over victory. His 46 off 67 deliveries was exactly what was required in the situation. Walsh attacked 53.5% of deliveries faced, and although he rode his luck at times with 21.1% false shots, proved to be the decisive difference between the two sides.
Ireland will rue their missed chances to clinch the win in the final over of the game, and surely debate the controversial third umpire’s decision in the final over. However, they did not execute their basic skills well enough to emerge victorious in this series, and head to Grenada with a point to prove, and a great deal of pride to reinstate.