Stirling blinder helps Ireland edge West Indies in high-scoring thriller

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After a 0-3 drubbing in the preceding ODI series, Ireland came back strongly against the West Indies, edging the hosts by four runs in the first of three T20Is, at St. George’s Park, Grenada.

Ireland, who opted to bat first, blazed away in the powerplay and hammered the highest score in a T20I powerplay – an unprecedented 93 for no loss, courtesy a brutal exhibition of ball-striking from Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling. The latter outscored his partner by a huge margin and the hosts looked in utter disarray before the returning Dwayne Bravo came to their rescue and knocked over O’Brien. Stirling followed soon after, dismissed by Hayden Walsh Junior, and missed out on a well-deserved hundred.

The damage is done, however, it was already quite significant, as Kesrick Williams and Khary Pierre received hiding of a lifetime before the experience of Bravo brought about some damage control. In fact, Pierre and Cottrell, who had had poor opening spells, went on to pick up a couple of wickets each and potentially truncated the target by about thirty runs. Still, Ireland’s 208 was bound to be competitive.

The sixathon continued during the West Indian chase, as the batsmen played supporting cameos around a ravaging Evin Lewis (53 off 29). However, a steady rate of fall of wickets ensured that Ireland was always in the game, as the bowlers shared the top-order spoils. The Irish exhibited a certain hunger to win, with some excellent catching and ground fielding to build sustained pressure on the West Indies.

It was all going according to the plan until the 18th over, with the equation reading “43 to win off 18”. A struggling Pooran and Sherfane Rutherford manifested the full extent of their wrath on Andrew McCarthy in a violent over that read – 6.6.1.4.6.4 – creaming 27 runs off the over and turning the match around for the West Indies. The equation now read: 16 to win off 12.

It was then, however, that Craig Young turned up with a penultimate over for the ages, conceding just three runs and picking up the wicket of the dangerous Pooran, leaving Joshua Little to defend 13 off the last over.

Little picked up Rutherford off the first ball but was brought right back down to earth, courtesy a first-ball six by Bravo. However, he held his nerve to snaffle Bravo’s wicket and bowl a dot ball to Walsh with four to win off the final ball, to hand Ireland a nail-biting four-run win.

Brief Scores: Ireland 208-7in 20 overs (Paul Stirling 95, Kevin O’Brien 48; Dwayne Bravo 2-28) beat West Indies 204-7 in 20 overs (Evin Lewis 53, Kieron Pollard 31; Joshua Little 3-29, Craig Young 2-31) by 4 runs.

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