O'Brien's century not enough as Black Caps spin Ireland out
Niall O'Brien's first one-day international century was not enough to prevent another Ireland defeat to a Full Member nation as New Zealand won the second match of the Tri-Series in Malahide by 51 runs.
O'Brien, promoted to No 3 in the continued absence of the injured Ed Joyce, hit 109 from 131 balls, but his departure, with Ireland still needing 55 for victory from the last six overs, left the tail with a mission impossible.
The former Leicestershire professional admitted he was under pressure to perform, after a top score of 34 in his last 20 innings for Ireland, but from the moment he hit the first of his 14 boundaries his confidence soared and he dominated the Ireland innings. He reached his century in the grand manner, with his fifth six.
The support, however, was badly lacking with only Andrew Balbirnie, in a third wicket stand of 86 and Gary Wilson - frustratingly out for yet another 30 - in a fifth wicket stand of 75 staying any length of time.
Once again, it was a left arm spinner who was the undoing of an Ireland side; this time Mitchell Santner took career best figures of five for 50 after debutant Scott Kuggeleijn had removed openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling with successive balls in his first three overs.
The Ireland bowling again lacked consistency and although the wide count was reduced from 14 to eight, the Black Caps found it far too easy to pick off singles, when the boundaries dried up. At one stage they hit 20 in a row in the middle overs and with wickets in hand they slammed 130 off the last 15 overs, scoring off all but three of the last 38 balls - a scenario Ireland can still only dream about.
Indeed, Santner conceded only one run off the 43rd over of the Ireland innings, when they still needed 62 and you can't expect to win matches after that.
Peter Chase, Ireland's new fast bowling hope, cannot be expected to be at his best in every game and this was definitely not one of them. He was taken out of the attack after two overs and it didn't get any better in his remaining three spells. It was to his credit that he took a wicket and conceded only seven runs when he was given the last over.
Barry McCarthy claimed his 'usual' couple of early wickets and Tim Murtagh took two for only the second time in his last 15 ODIs, but were too expensive and it was left to Kevin O'Brien and George Dockrell to give some measure of control.
Ireland gave a debut to Simi Singh, replacing Stuart Thompson in the only change but, Porterfield, who has said his bowling would be a bonus, left him unused despite three of his seamers coming under attack.
The captain and John Bracewell, coaching a team against his native country for the first time, obviously wanted to see if Singh's batting at this level was as good as Thompson and he, indeed, looked very comfortable facing his first 13 balls for nine runs. But when he went down the pitch to his next ball from Santner, he failed to make contact and the Ireland collapse was under way.
Santner's last four wickets came at cost of just five runs in 19 balls and the search must begin for some genuine all-rounders who can bat as low at nine and 10. To think that former captain Kyle McCallan finished his career batting at No 11.
New Zealand didn't need the lower order to finish their innings as George Worker and Ross Taylor scored 50s in the top four and No 5 Neil Broom stayed until the end of the 48th over, hitting 79 from 63 balls with nine fours and a six.
L Ronchi c Wilson b McCarthy 37
T Latham c N O'Brien b McCarthy 15
G Worker c Singh b Worker 50
R Taylor c Porterfield b K O'Brien 52
N Broom run out 79
J Neesham c McCarthy b Chase 30
C Munro c K O'Brien b Murtagh 0
S Kuggeleijn not out11
M Santner not out 17
Extras (6lb 8w) 14
Total (7 wkts, 50 overs) 289
Fall: 1-53 2-55 3-130 4-194 5-273 6-273 7-285
Bowling: T Murtagh 10-0-62-2, P Chase 10-0-74-1, B McCarthy 10-0-59-2, G Dockrell 10-0-42-0, K O'Brien 10-0-46-1
W Porterfield c Latham b Kuggeleijn 12
P Stirling b Kuggeleijn 14
N O'Brien st Ronchi b Santner 109
A Balbirnie c and b Santner 36
K O'Brien lbw b Sodhi 1
G Wilson c Taylor b Kuggeleijn 30
S Singh st Ronchi b Santner 9
G Dockrell c Latham b Santner 1
B McCarthy c Latham b Santner 6
T Murtagh not out 2
P Chase lbw b Rance 1
Extras (4b 6lb 2nb 5w) 17
Total (45.3 overs) 238
Fall: 1-19 2-26 3-112 4-112 5-188 6-212 7-218 8-235 9-236
Bowling: S Rance 8.3-1-44-1 S Kuggeleijn 9-1-41-3, J Neesham 6-0-37-0, C Munro 4-0-16-0, M Santner 10-0-50-5, I Sodhi 8-0-40-1
New Zealand won by 51 runs