Thursday, January 18, 2018

Jamaica whip struggling Irish

Ireland’s cricketers are one week into their Caribbean tour, but they still haven’t found their rhythm. And thus, their final Zone A game in the NAGICO Super50 against the Windward Islands on Friday will serve only as preparation for their three-match limited overs series against the West Indies.

On Monday evening, the Irish succumbed to Jamaica by six wickets for their second loss of the tournament. But for Jamaica, the win and bonus point gained all but guaranteed their passage into the semi-finals with one group match still to play against Guyana.

Having dismissed the Irish for 161 in 46 overs and one ball, the Jamaicans needed to get to their target by the 40th over to gain their bonus.

They duly achieved it right at the end of the 29th over.

Opener John Campbell, a former West Indies Under-19 talent, got them there in the main with a fluent, attractive 71 off 80 balls with seven fours and one six. He was third out, dismissed with nine runs still needed, bowled trying to hit seamer Max Sorensen (4-0-17-2) over his head.

And Jamaica lost a further wicket with the total still on 153 when Tamar Lambert (27, 49 balls, one four) fell to leg-spinner Andy McBrine via Stuart Thompson’s catch at long-on.

It was left to Man-of-the-Match Andre Russell to end proceedings with two sixes over long-on.

Victory had come ever so easily, but the end was a tad sloppy.

That may have prompted Jamaica skipper Dave Bernard Jr to say afterwards: “We still haven’t played a perfect game, so we’re striving for that, and once we go as close as possible to that, we’ll be in good stead.”

His Irish counterpart William Porterfield, however, had much more reason to feel aggrieved at his side’s display. Already up against it, having to defend 161, his fielders dropped Lambert twice during his 101-run third wicket partnership with Campbell and Russell once, when he tried for his first six.

There was little in this second performance to encourage optimism in the visitors’ camp.

Porterfield’s winning of the toss and decision to bat first was a plus. No team up to Monday had lost after taking first strike. That was because they had all fashioned formidable totals. In contrast, the Irish failed to bat 50 overs for the second straight game. Against Guyana, the top ICC Associate side lasted 38.3.

The Irish never seemed to get used to the conditions and opener Porterfield (25, 57 balls) and his companions in the top three, opening partner Niall O’Brien (35, 54 balls) and No.3 Alex Cusack (30, 52 balls) all laboured in vain to capitalise on their starts.

Following their opening 14-run win over defending champions Windward Islands, the Jamaicans had a considerably easier time in this match.

Despite an opening stand of 54 between Porterfield and O’Brien, the Irish never were able to dictate the pace. Those runs came in 15 overs before Porterfield handed the advantage to the opposition when he drove at a wide delivery slanted across him, the left-hander succeeding only in snicking a catch to wicket-keeper Carlton Baugh Jr.

Returning seamer Jerome Taylor, given his first match in the tournament, had gone without success in his first spell with the new ball. But he would later pick up the last three wickets (9.1-0-34-3) to at least encourage more confidence for the rest of the series. Taylor was some way from what would be his top form. But Jamaica did not require him to be on Monday.

Russell (8-0-19-3) was vastly more controlled and thus economical in this second match and was rewarded for his fuller length. He started with the wicket of Cusack who was the fifth to fall, cutting to Andre McCarthy at third man off Russell’s third ball of the match. Top scorer O’Brien was trapped lbw on the back foot by off-spinner Lambert.

“Going for runs in the first game doesn’t mean that you are a bad bowl. So I just came back, do the adjustment and I did well tonight,” Russell said.

Wicket-keeper Gary Wilson (10), Stuart Thompson (15) and Sorensen (12) were the only others to reach double figures. Not that there was a crowd present to be entertained, but the few souls around would have hoped for a bit more. Much more.