Ireland reaffirmed their reputation for giant-killing acts on the ground where they first shook up the established order as Ed Joyce’s unbeaten 40 led them to a first international win over West Indies. Joyce and Andrew Poynter laid the main plank for victory during a 58-run stand, after their bowlers had done superbly to restrict a rusty-looking West Indies, as Ireland issued another warning that they will not be in Bangladesh for the World T20 just to make up the numbers next month, with a win over the defending champions.
The loss was the fifth straight in T20Is for the Windies following 2-0 series losses to Pakistan last year and New Zealand on the recent tour.
Yesterday, Sunil Narine, ranked the world’s No. 1 T20 bowler, had to wait until his 23rd delivery to take a wicket – deceiving Poynter with a carrom ball – and he was one of several West Indies big guns to be successfully spiked. Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and the captain, Darren Sammy, have not played much cricket in recent weeks and their return from various injuries was painful on several levels.
Kevin O’Brien, one of two survivors from the team that beat Pakistan at Sabina Park during the 2007 World Cup, hit the winning runs but there was no exuberant celebration this time, just handshakes for the opposition and the knowledge of another job well done, another point made. Zimbabwe, the Full Member in Ireland’s qualifying group at the World Twenty20, which begins in just over three weeks, will have been looking on nervously.
Ireland were quickly on the back foot in their chase, openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling dismissed inside eight balls, but Joyce and Gary Wilson steadied things, adding 29 in 5.2 overs. The required rate rose above a run a ball after Wilson was bowled, coming down the pitch and aiming a heave at Samuel Badree, but Joyce played a cool hand, ably assisted by Poynter in only his fifth T20.
They put on the decisive stand, by far the highest of the match, with Poynter hitting six boundaries - including two in an over off both Sammy and Ravi Rampaul - on a pitch that West Indies’ batsmen had struggled to master. Poynter was bowled by Narine for 32, his highest T20 score, but the target was in sight and O’Brien, like seven years ago, was still there at the end. With five balls and six wickets in hand, Ireland had change to spare.
Ireland’s bowlers made a solid start after West Indies chose to bat, despite Dwayne Smith finding his range with a six in each of Stirling’s opening overs. Tim Murtagh removed Smith, caught in the deep hitting to leg, and Gayle then chipped Alex Cusack to long-on for a subdued 18 off 19 balls on his return from injury. That turned out to be the highest score of the innings, as Ireland kept a lid on the hosts for the duration.
At the halfway stage, West Indies were 58 for 2, going at less than a run a ball, and it got worse when George Dockrell had another big hitter, Marlon Samuels, stumped. West Indies were being throttled by a battery of miserly medium pace and another partnership failed to achieve escape velocity when Dwayne Bravo sliced to third man trying to hit Max Sorensen on the up.
Lendl Simmons was caught in the deep and two overs later Tim Murtagh yorked Andre Russell for 15, making him the fifth batsman to reach double figures but not pass 20. Two more wickets fell but 27 runs from the last three overs took West Indies scrambling beyond three figures, though it looked a barely respectable score. Ireland have shown by know that respect is the least they deserve.