Ireland proved once again why they are so highly rated by opposition teams with a fighting display against West Indies in their important Group B match of the ICC Cricket World Cup at Mohali. It was only Kieron Pollard’s 94 that enabled West Indies post 275 and a poor umpiring decision derailed Ireland’s chase as they went down by 44 runs.
Ireland won the toss and chose to field inspired by the grass on the wicket. However, the seamers did not find any lateral movement off the pitch to trouble the batsmen. The Caribbean openers Devon Smith and Shivnarine Chanderpaul started slowly but accelerated as they came to terms with the pitch and the conditions. The pair put on 89 runs when Chanderpaul’s expansive cover drive was taken low by William Porterfield. In the same over Kevin O’Brien breached the defences of Darren Bravo with a full length delivery that the batsman played all over and missed.
Ramnaresh Sarwan did not last long as he decided to attack the left arm spinner George Dockrell’s flighted delivery but only succeeded in finding the fielder at long off. This brought Kieron Pollard to the crease and the innings sprang to life in the batting Powerplay which was taken in the 35th over. Pollard signalled his intentions by lofting Kevin O’Brien over deep midwicket. A missed run out chance off the next ball was followed by another six – this time over the long on boundary. Pollard was dropped by Gary Wilson in the next over and this was to prove costly in the end analysis.
Devon Smith on the other end reached his century in the 39th over – his first in one-day internationals but certainly not his best innings. It was a hardworking knock though and one which held the innings together. Pollard continued to pound the bowlers and the run rate increased. He lost Smith after a productive partnership of 88 runs in just 63 balls as the batsman tried to flick Kevin O’Brien down the leg side but missed and lost his stumps. Wickets continued to fall at one end but Pollard remained unruffled at the other as he continued to attack despite the setbacks. He fell in the 49th over, six runs short of a well deserved century. West Indies ended up at 275 in their 50 overs.
Ireland got off to a bad start in their chase as Paul Stirling was dismissed by Sulieman Benn. But Ed Joyce looked in great touch and together with Porterfield carried the innings to the 12th over when Porterfield gave a catch to the fielder at mid on. Joyce found a reliable partner in Niall O’Brien and they picked the ones and twos on offer with a boundary thrown in between to ease the pressure. The partnership was broken by Benn when O’Brien failed to read the line of a delivery and saw his off stump pegged back.
Gary Wilson and Porterfield then put on a vital 91 runs at almost a run a ball. Joyce got to his fifty early during the partnership. 10 runs off a Pollard over eased the pressure somewhat as Ireland steadied and sauntered toward the target. Wilson slog swept Nikita Miller for a six in the 35th over and hit two successive fours in the 37th over off the same bowler to send West Indies worrying. But against the run of play, Ed Joyce was dismissed in the 38th over by a brilliant yorker from the debutant Andre Russell who was replacing the injured Chris Gayle in the playing eleven. Joyce made a fine 84 studded with nine beautiful hits to the fence.
When Kevin O’Brien departed in the 40th over courtesy a low catch by Pollard, Ireland seemed to have run out of steam but Wilson who had reached his 50 in the previous over was playing very well and there was hope. Then the controversial dismissal happened. Wilson tried to play a ball from Darren Sammy that pitched outside off and seamed into him but was struck on the pads. The umpire Asoka de Silva gave Wilson out much to the chagrin of the batsman who asked that the decision be reviewed. On review, the umpire ruled that the decision stayed but Wilson was not convinced and asked that it be re-reviewed. Sadly he was given out on the second review as well. It was a truly shocking decision.
The rest of the batting capitulated for 32 runs as Ireland slid to defeat. It was a disappointing result for a team that had shown the courage and determination to see through the chase but was done in by some good bowling by West Indies and a poor umpiring decision.
Ireland will look back and see that they should not have dropped Pollard when he was in his early twenties. It looked at one stage that Ireland would manage to restrict West Indies to less than 240 but Pollard had other ideas. Also, it was baffling why George Dockrell was given only three overs to bowl. On the batting side, they should probably have taken the batting Powerplay when Joyce and Wilson were batting. Ireland need to win their remaining two matches to get their quarter final hopes back on track but I get the feeling it may not be as simple as that and they may have to rely on some other results going their way.
West Indies will be happy to have chalked their third win after the defeat to South Africa in the opener. Their easy games are over and two tough opponents wait in the wings. England and India will be a true test of this team’s character and ability and they would do well to sustain the momentum gained on the back of three wins.