Ireland blow chance of historic series win
Published 22/02/2014 | 01:30
Ireland missed a glorious chance to claim a first-ever series win against one of the 'big boys' in world cricket when they failed to chase 97 in the second Twenty20 international against West Indies.
For the second successive game, the bowlers produced a herculean performance, albeit on a Sabina Park pitch when the batsman on both sides struggled.
Indeed, no West Indies batsmen reached 20, again, as Ireland restricted them to 96 for nine, but the world champions in the shortest format upped their game in the field and early wickets put Ireland under pressure, with which they couldn't cope.
They slumped to 29 for five in the 11th over and there was no way back as the increasingly excited crowd got behind their team and only Gary Wilson's 35, including four of the seven boundaries in the innings, threatened to get Ireland over the line.
When he was out 25 runs and 14 balls from home, it really was game up for Ireland.
It was all so unfair on the bowlers, particularly Alex Cusack who finished with career best T20 figures of four for 11.
But they probably only had themselves to blame because from the start of their innings, there was a cautious approach which had not been evident when they chased 20 runs more, successfully, in Wednesday's six wicket victory.
It was a case of déjà vu as openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling both went early, Porterfield, badly out of touch, using up 18 balls for five and when Ed Joyce was caught behind in the eight over, Ireland were in trouble at 22 for three.
It was got worse, rapidly, as Andrew Poynter and Kevin O'Brien followed in the space of nine balls but although Wilson and Thompson took 19 off the next two overs, that ended with Thompson's wicket and after that the result was inevitable.
When Porterfield saw the West Indies team-sheet without Chris Gayle, it probably made up his mind, if there was ever any doubt, that he would bowl first.
In an almost identical start to the first match, West Indies hit two sixes in the first 16 balls of the innings and lost their first wicket in the fifth over.
This time it was Cusack who struck with his first ball, having Gayle's replacement, Andre Fletcher, caught behind and it set the stage for the superlative bowling performance.
Cusack, named man of the series, picked up his second wicket before he had conceded a run, thanks to a sensational catch by the captain. Porterfield was the only person in the ground who could have seen the rocket-like cut that came off Dwayne Smith's bat, but he was the only one who mattered.
It was not to be his last involvement in the field. When Dwayne Bravo set off looking for a quick single, Lendl Simmons knew better and Porterfield's throw was so good that bowler George Dockrell had time to take off the bails.
Porterfield also run out his opposite number, Darren Sammy. This time it was his partner who called the impossible run, and left his captain stranded.
The bowlers meanwhile were accuracy personified, with Kevin O'Brien, in particular, giving great support to Cusack.
But in the end, the Ireland batsmen could not stand the heat as Sammy walked off with the man of the match, having clinched victory for the Windies.