On Saturday, twice Ireland looked to romp home early and twice West Indies snatched momentum away.
Initially with the ball and later with the bat. Ireland, that is. Reeling at 62-4, being put into bat first, a lot rested on the shoulders of debutant Shamarh Brooks and captain Kieron Pollard. A 155-run partnership between the duo scuppered the chances of an easy win for the visitors.
It wasn’t to be the only act of turning the game around though. Set 270 to chase, Ireland looked comfortable at 165 for the loss of William Porterfield and Andy McBrine, the latter through a concussion. Harry Tector continued his fine form, notching up his fifth ODI half-century, with all five coming in his last eight appearances. Andrew Balbirnie recorded his 13th half-century in a knock of 71, replete with his characteristic drives and sweeps. However, neither could hang around long enough to see off the victory.
In the absence of Paul Stirling, Balbirnie and Tector (53) were the lynchpins of the chase and their dismissals eight balls apart precipitated a cataclysmic collapse with Ireland losing their nine wickets for 80 runs. Does it need second guessing where the plot might have been lost?
‘It’s obvious really,’ Tector said in an interview on Sunday. ‘If you lose two set batters in the space of eight balls then the pressure is going to be put on those coming after – we were facing good bowlers and they’re not going to be giving you freebies. I think the run rate required was around 7-an-over when me and Bal [Andrew Balbirnie] were in – and that is something we were doing as we were set. The mantle really fell to me when Bal was out, so it’s a bit gutting that I couldn’t get us over the line, but I guess I have to live and learn for next time I’m in that position.’
Live and learn he has. It was Tector’s 18th ODI, his first ten had yielded only 202 runs, the recent eight have brought him 362 with five half-centuries since June 2021.
Life is not often without its trials. Following Ireland’s disappointing finish at the T20 World Cup, where they failed to make the Super 12s, the axe fell on him as selectors search for more boundary-scoring options.
Having linked up with the squad ahead of the series against USA in December, Tector spent Christmas isolating after testing positive for Covid-19. The ODI series eventually failed to get off the ground which meant he came into the West Indies games with little game time since his US T20 Open commitments in early December.
‘I felt quite confident out in the middle, I was quite well prepared, and I feel like I’m in a good place with my batting in one-day cricket at the moment. I got a bit of luck early on in my innings, but felt more comfortable the longer I was in. It was just so disappointing that that nick flew all the way to third man – it was a big opportunity missed.’
‘The bowlers bowled well up top and in the early middle overs, and the way the lads came back at the end was exceptional. To restrict them to 270 – when at one stage they were eyeing 300 to 330 – was good. Credit has to go to the bowling unit as preparation hasn’t been ideal and they probably feel a bit under-cooked going into the first game.’
While Paul Stirling and Shane Getkate have rejoined the squad in Jamaica, Ireland will most likely be without the services of Simi Singh and Ben White for the remainder of the series having returned positive Covid-19 tests.
Andy McBrine, who retired hurt batting on 34 and was later replaced by Neil Rock following his concussion, will undergo follow-up assessments over the next 48 hours for a suspect ‘mild concussive episode’, although his symptoms are believed to be very mild.
Meanwhile Cricket West Indies and Cricket Ireland have issued a joint statement announcing the postponement of the second ODI in the series.
The statement said that Covid-19 and injuries have left Ireland with a ‘severely depleted squad’ and that further details on a revised match schedule would be available later.
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