Tuesday 22 January 2019

Boys in Green face uphill battle after Windies punish slip-ups

Ireland captain William Porterfield
Ireland captain William Porterfield

Gerard Siggins

Baseball is defined as a game of 'small failures'; its transatlantic cousin can also be like that. It was certainly the case for Ireland in Harare yesterday.

A 52-run defeat to West Indies likely means Ireland must win four games in the next fortnight to be sure of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup, but it could have been such a different story.

"We seemed in a good position, but we didn't take some of our chances which can cost you in big games," admitted William Porterfield.

Having won the toss and fielded, Ireland were quickly on top. The most dangerous batsmen in the tournament, Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, were removed by two snorters from Tim Murtagh. Then spinner Andy McBrine - a quirky, tactical choice to open the bowling - winkled out the dangerous Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope.

The Windies were suddenly 83-5 in the 19th over and Ireland had one foot on their opponents' neck. But as has happened too often in recent years, they let it slip. Perhaps the worst small failure was of the selectors who left out the wicket-magnet seamer Barry McCarthy.

The first on-field failure was that of Paul Stirling to bend forward to collect a straightforward caught and bowled. Then Gary Wilson, having done well to get into position to make a difficult catch an easier one, failed to hang on to the ball.

The reprieved batsmen went on to take the game away from Ireland. Jason Holder (54) and Rovman Powell (101) put on 86 in the next 20 overs, but the latter went ballistic in the last ten.

The Jamaican hit seven 6s in his maiden century - the first by a West Indian No 7.

It left Ireland chasing 258, a serious test on a tricky pitch when a total 80 or 90 fewer looked likely at one stage in proceedings.

In a similar fashion, Ireland lost early wickets and then repaired. From 32-3, Ed Joyce marshalled the innings, putting together stands of 64 and 70 with the O'Brien brothers, Niall (34) and Kevin (38).

Ireland were starting to hope at 166-4 with 14 overs left but the return of the pacy Kemar Roach ended that.

Joyce went for 63, caught by an acrobatic Carlos Brathwaite, and in the same over Kevin O'Brien was given lbw when the ball looked to be missing.

It all fell apart after that, and Graham Ford has a job to pick them up for tomorrow's final pool game against UAE. He can play his own part by finding room for McCarthy.

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