Ireland was forced to settle for a 1-1 series result despite a strong performance
The ignominy of a series defeat to Ireland, in its own backyard, was avoided but Friday’s slender win does little to mitigate the agitation in the Caribbean. Darren Sammy led from the front with the ball, with 3 for 22, after he saw his batsman succumb to Ireland’s disciplined and steady bowling for the second time in three days after being put into bat at Sabina Park.
The World Twenty20 holders faltered to 96 for 9, with Andre Fletcher – who replaced Chris Gayle in one of two changes made by the hosts from Wednesday’s six-wicket reversal – the only batsman to score at better than a run-a-ball. It proved to be enough, however, as Sammy and both Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine stifled Ireland as it chased a historic series victory.
Gary Wilson provided dogged resistance and gave Phil Simmons’ side an outset chance of reaching the victory target but as the required rate rose, the wicketkeeper was caught and bowled by Dwayne Bravo for 35, all but ending the contest.
It was the slower bowlers who prospered again on the sterile surface and after Alex Cusack had earlier taken career best figures of 4 for 11. West Indies used conditions to its advantage by curbing Ireland’s momentum from the outset.
Krishmar Santokie, the left-armer, who replaced Ravi Rampaul in the side, removed Paul Stirling in the third over and Stirling was shortly followed back to the pavilion by William Porterfield who was bogged down by Badree: the legspinner eventually broke through the Ireland captain’s defences with one that kept low.
After a slow start, there was no respite for the Associate nation as it found runs hard to come by. Ed Joyce, on his 100th appearance for Ireland, looked to replicate his exploits of Wednesday, but Narine struck to claim the crucial wicket in the seventh over before Andrew Poynter picked out extra-cover off a Sammy full toss.
When Kevin O’Brien was bowled for just 3, Ireland’s chances had evaporated. Wilson was the only batsmen to reach double figures and his dismissal in the 18th over produced a jig from Bravo, underlying the relief felt by the World Twenty20 holders at restoring some pride.
It hadn’t seemed likely ninety minutes earlier. Sammy insisted his side would learn from its mistakes having lost five successive Twenty20 games, but it was a familiar story with the bat as it showed little application against a miserly attack.
The first-wicket pair of Dwayne Smith and Fletcher were quick out of the traps, putting on 27, but the latter’s tame departure for 19, caused a rippling effect. Two needless run-outs, of Bravo and Sammy, was indicative of the amateur nature of the innings. Tim Murtagh and O’Brien chipped in with a wicket apiece, but Ireland was left to rue a couple of dropped chances as it slipped to defeat, closing on 85 for 8, eleven runs short.
“It wasn’t an excellent day in terms of our batting so as bowlers we knew we had to step up and do it for the team. The pressure was on us as bowlers to go out and defend the small target and we did a magnificent job of it,” said the 32-year-old Badree.
“We bowled our hearts out out there to restrict them under our small total and now it feels good to win today and level the series. My role has always been to create pressure at the top of the innings in the PowerPlay and I was just happy to do that and help the team to win.
“The pitch was one where you had to bowl ‘wicket to wicket’ and I knew my lines and lengths would be vitally important. I knew I had to pick up wickets and restrict the scoring.”
Santokie, playing his first match for the Windies since 2012, made the most of his opportunity with the new ball. Backed by a colourful crowd which included several members of his family, he was excellent in his first and second spells from the Courtney Walsh End at the north.
“I’m happy to be back and in the maroon colours and get this win and level the series. It was a boost for me playing in front my home crowd for the first time. Even though the runs were small, we bowled really well and kept the ball in good areas – that was the key to victory today,” said Santokie.
“The conditions suited my bowling, but I still had to get it right. That was what we went out and did today. It felt good that my biggest supporter and my biggest motivator – my father – was in the crowd watching me perform for the West Indies at my best. I know he’s a happy man this evening.”