Ireland inches from New Zealand upset

Michael Bracewell
NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 25: Michael Bracewell of New Zealand warms up for the First T20 International in the series between New Zealand and the Netherlands at McLean Park on March 25, 2022 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

If it wasn’t for one of the greatest ODI hundreds from New Zealand No.7 Michael Bracewell, the Irish would have likely pulled off one of the great upsets in the format’s history.

The Irish didn’t get off to a good start, losing both openers inside the first seven overs. Paul Stirling was the first to go, being bowled by Lockie Ferguson for 5, and Ireland captain Andrew Balbirinie for 9, caught behind by Tom Latham off the bowling of Matt Henry.

A good partnership helped by some loose bowling from Blair Tickner was able to see Ireland through to 74/2 at drinks with youngster Harry Tector sitting on 21* and the experienced Andy McBrine on 33*.

In the 17th over, McBrine and Tector brought up the 50 partnership between them from 67 balls. However the partnership only lasted a couple more overs as Ferguson provided the crucial breakthrough for the Kiwis with the wicket of Andy McBrine, gone for 39 from 58 deliveries.

With the fall of the wicket, Curtis Campher arrived at the crease to combine with Tector and they increased the scoring rate with 12 boundaries in the partnership, including three sixes. The New Zealanders needed a wicket to break this important partnership, though Tector and Campher weren’t letting them with some beautiful shots all around the ground.

Harry Tector bought up his 50 from 71 balls with the contribution of five fours and a six. Campher and Tector were able to bring up the 50 partnership between them with a four with Tector contributing 31 and Campher 19.

It was not until the 36th over when debutant Glenn Phillips was able to knock over Campher for a well made 43 from only 47 balls, it looked like the game could have started swinging to New Zealand’s favour, however, Tector was still there and the New Zealanders needed to remove him if they were wanting to restrict the total.

The turning point of the Irish innings came in the 39th over when both Lorcan Tucker and Tector attacked New Zealand spinner Ish Sodhi for 17 from the over. With Tector and Tucker wanting to further the scoring the New Zealanders needed to be wise with their bowling plan. Tickner was being taken to and this was shown throughout the whole game with the Irish, when wanting to attack the scoring rate, smashing him around the park.

In the 42nd over, Harry Tector brought up his maiden ODI hundred and the celebration showed his delight at this. A lovely shot driven to the boundary to bring up the century from only 109 deliveries.

Tucker was dismissed the next over by a brilliant catch from Michael Bracewell and he departed for 26 from 22 to leave Ireland on 241 for five, with seven overs left.

Tector was the next man to depart with a top edge that ballooned up to Martin Guptill and he left for an excellent knock of 113 from 117 balls to leave Ireland on 251 for six. Mark Adair fell next over for a duck to leave the Irish reeling on 253 for 7, and now needing to make some lower order partnerships to boost the score.

George Dockrell and Simi Singh had other plans however, taking Sodhi and Henry to the boundary for a few runs. Dockrell was out in the last over, holing out to Glenn Phillips and Singh was run out on the last ball of the innings trying to run a second.

Openers, Martin Guptill and debuant, Finn Allen came out to the middle to start off the chase for the Blackcaps, however, Allen was gone early for six off the bowling of Mark Adair, trying to play a rash shot with the ball going straight up in the air and into McBrine’s hands.

Will Young joined Guptill in the middle as these two looked to once again form a partnership, like they did in the series against the Netherlands back in April. It wasn’t to be as Young as Craig Young was able to get an edge from Will Young straight through to keeper, Lorcan Tucker. With New Zealand sitting on 19 for two, it looked like they were going to need someone to stand up and provide some runs for them.

Captain Tom Latham and Guptill were able to steady the New Zealand chase before another wicket fell with Latham falling LBW to the impressive Curtis Campher in his first over of the day. Henry Nicholls fell to Campher for seven, and the Kiwis needed to build a partnership somewhere if they wanted to have any shot at chasing down the target.

Phillips joined Guptill to try and rescue the New Zealand chase and both were able to score at good rates, with Guptill making his 38th ODI fifty from only 56 deliveries. He was the next one to go though as Ireland were able to restrict the New Zealanders to 120/5.

This did bring Michael Bracewell to the middle and he and Phillips were looking to somehow resurrect the chase and get New Zealand over the line. This didn’t go to plan though, with Phillips departing for 38 and the score sitting on 153/6 and needing 148 from the last 20 overs to win the match.

Bracewell was able to work with Sodhi first to bring them back into the game and this did work until the unfortunate run out of Sodhi for 25, and the score at 214/7 with only nine overs to go. As the required run rate started to creep out after Matt Henry was caught behind, it was all left down to Bracewell, and he needed to do something special.

Lockie Ferguson joined Bracewell and the two of them put on a game changing partnership of 64 for the ninth wicket from only 42 balls.

Going into the last six overs, New Zealand needed 77 runs from only 36 balls, the Irish having the game in their fingertips. Josh Little didn’t bowl his best during the 45th over, going for 16, and New Zealand now needed 61 from the last five overs. Young was able to bowl a good 46th over to leave New Zealand needing 53 off 24 balls, then 40 from 18 after Adair went for 13 from his over.

Bracewell was starting to up the ante and progressing New Zealand closer to the target. With three overs to go and New Zealand needing 40, he was most certainly the key. Ferguson and Bracewell made their partnership in only 29 balls with Bracewell contributing 42 and Ferguson 6. Bracewell then was able to bring up his maiden ODI hundred from 74 balls, with seven fours and five sixes.

In the last two overs, New Zealand still needed 24 to win. Mark Adair was given the task of bowling the all important 49th over and he did that just perfectly giving away three singles and a leg bye along with the partnership breaking wicket of Lockie Ferguson. This left New Zealand needing 20 to win with only one wicket remaining.

Bracewell was on strike with Craig Young at the other end. He sent the first ball of the over for four by flicking it over fine leg repeating the dose in similar fashion second ball. This left them needing 12 to win from four balls.

The third ball of the over went for six with an impressive shot over deep midwicket. With six from three balls, the tables had turned and it was New Zealand’s game to lose . Bracewell was once again able to find the boundary pulling it wide of deep square leg for a four. With two needed from two, he sent the ball into the crowd and won the game.

New Zealand take out the first ODI by one wicket, following one of the great ODI you’d ever see by Bracewell, who ended up making 127* from 82 balls.

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