Record breaking Ireland came out on top in a frantic last over scramble yesterday at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada. Andrew Balbirnie won yet another toss and elected to bat first on a flat looking pitch, that saw over 400 runs scored throughout the game.
Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien got off to a blistering start and after the initial powerplay, Ireland had amassed a mammoth 93 runs without the loss of a wicket. This was the first record of the afternoon to tumble, as the Irish openers eclipsed the previous T20I Powerplay record score of 91, which has been achieved 4 times previously by the Netherlands, Australia, West Indies and Ireland themselves.
Paul Stirling went ballistic in the first Powerplay and broke the second world record of the afternoon. The Irishman scored 67 from 25 balls including five 4’s and six 6’s, and now is the world record holder for the most runs scored in a single Powerplay in T20I cricket.
When Kevin O’Brien was eventually dismissed for 48 from 32 in the 13th over, Ireland were 154/0, which was the third record of the afternoon to fall. This was now Ireland’s highest ever opening partnership in T20I cricket, beating the 126 put on by the same pair against Afghanistan in 2019.
This record partnership included 20 boundaries, 10 of each variety. Stirling and O’Brien dished out the majority of this punishment to the pace bowlers, with 86 runs of the 143 scored off the bat coming from the quick men.
Ireland were looking on course to post well in excess of 250, but the Windies rallied, and led by the returning Dwayne Bravo, managed to restrict the tourists to a chase-able 208/7.
It was very much a tale of two halves for the West Indies, with the first half of the innings dominated by the bat, and the second with the ball.
The returning Bravo led the fightback in the second half of the innings, and despite his first over going for 18 in the Powerplay, he finished with figures of 2 for 28, with his last 18 deliveries only conceding 10 runs and picking up the wickets of O’Brien and Delaney.
Bravo bowled generally with a full length and predominantly attacked straight, with 32% of his deliveries projected to hit the stumps. This figure is far greater than his career average of 17.5%. Bravo also varied his pace, bowling seven slower balls throughout the spell. These variations did not bring him any success today however, and he conceded 19 runs at an economy of 16.28, a departure from his career slower ball economy rate of 8.47.
In reply, the Windies started brightly, matching the required run-rate, and were 62/1 at the end of the Powerplay. Evin Lewis continued his fine form from the ODI series, but could not muster a match winning innings today. He was dismissed in the ninth over for 53 from 29 deliveries, striking six 4’s and three 6’s.
All of the Windies top six scored above 20 runs, but Lewis was the only batsman to go on and make a more meaningful contribution to the chase. This was telling as the hosts finished agonisingly short of their target, with Dwayne Bravo dismissed on the penultimate delivery of the innings, leaving Hayden Walsh needing a maximum off the last ball to get the win. A swing and a miss meant that the Irish grabbed their first victory of the tour, and will go to Basseterre with greatly renewed confidence.
Pollard will be hoping for a much improved bowling performance first up in the next T20 on Saturday to restore parity in the series.