Mark Adair let rip with 37 not out from 15 balls for Ireland in Belfast last night but his late onslaught was not enough to prevent a New Zealand win by six wickets and a clean sweep of the three-match T20 series.
When Harry Tector and Curtis Campher helped Adair pile on 66 runs from the final four overs to take Ireland to 174-6, a first win over the Black Caps in any format seemed likely as no team before had chased more than 140 to win at Stormont.
New Zealand were always up with the rate, though, and Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell broke the back of the chase with a fourth-wicket partnership of 82 before Jimmy Neesham blasted 23 from six balls to take his side home with an over to spare.
Adair backed up his runs with three intelligent overs and did not deserve to be on the losing side, neither did Josh Little who took 2-16 from his first three overs before Neesham ruined the paceman’s figures.
“It was the best pitch of the series and we wanted to put up a good score,” skipper Andy Balbirnie said.
“We talk about taking momentum into the second innings and we did that but you have take your hats off to them – it was an impressive chase.”
Ireland chose to bat on a fresh pitch and Paul Stirling provided the early momentum, hitting three sixes before falling for 40 to the final ball of the 10th over, leaving a solid platform of 79-2 at halfway. Lorcan Tucker, promoted to three, was caught off a leading edge for 28 in the next over, Gareth Delany chopped on, and birthday boy George Dockrell also failed to get going.
Adair arrived at the crease after Tector had holed out for 23, and struck the first of his four sixes off his third ball before Campher weighed in with a maximum and two fours as 19 runs came from the 18th over.
Roared on by his home Belfast crowd, Adair cleared long leg and produced the cleanest shot of the day with a glorious straight drive into sightscreen before smashing a final six in the last over as the seventh-wicket pair added 58 from 3.3 overs.
New Zealand needed a good powerplay and opener Finn Allen wasted no time hitting Craig Young’s first five deliveries for two fours and a six over fine leg, only to step to leg and be yorked by the last ball of the over. Little took a wicket with his first ball but by the time he delivered a wicked bouncer and caught Mitchell off his own bowling the result was no longer in doubt.