Thursday 24 October 2019

Balbirnie heroics not enough

George Dockrell and his Ireland team-mates during the national anthem before yesterday’s match against West Indies in Malahide. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
George Dockrell and his Ireland team-mates during the national anthem before yesterday’s match against West Indies in Malahide. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ger Siggins

Despite a brilliant century by Andrew Balbirnie, Ireland fell to their second defeat of the Walton Tri-Series at Malahide yesterday. On a pitch that offered nothing to the bowlers the West Indies cruised to victory in a perfectly-paced reply.

Balbirnie has rapidly pushed his way to the front of the rank of Ireland batsmen. He made his maiden ODI century just 16 months ago, and this was his fourth. With greater fitness and mobility he has extended his range of shots, finding the pull and hook particularly lucrative.

He and Paul Stirling (77) put on 146 for the second wicket, a new record for a home ODI, and Balbirnie finally perished for 135, which included four sixes and 11 fours.

James McCollum had opened with Stirling, pushing captain William Porterfield down the order to four, the lowest he has ever batted for Ireland. If the idea was to relieve the pressure on his under-fire batting, it failed, as he followed a short ball into the hands of slip for just three.

The gremlins stayed clear of the rest of the Irish batsmen, and with the innings set up the boundaries began to fly. Ireland smashed ten sixes in all (to the Windies' four) with Kevin O'Brien making 63 off 40 balls, and Mark Adair 25 off 13 as Ireland piled on 327-5. It was their second highest total against a full member, just one run behind the famous 2011 win over England.

But the West Indian batsmen had feasted on this attack last Sunday and came back for more. Sunil Ambris, a 26-year-old from St Vincent, became the third of their openers to take a big hundred off Ireland this week with a match-winning 149. Four others made 30s or 40s, tuning up for the World Cup and easing the victory with two overs to spare.

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