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Balbirnie agony as battling Ireland just come up short


So close: Andrew Balbirnie was left gutted by defeat to the West Indies
So close: Andrew Balbirnie was left gutted by defeat to the West Indies

By Ian Callender

It was a last over which captain Andrew Balbirnie will relive over and over again, just wondering how Ireland came up short.

It was only his second one-day international in charge but it seems incredible he could suffer another such agonising loss no matter how long the Dubliner is involved.

If West Indies' last man Sheldon Cottrell had hit the first ball of Mark Adair's over for six, then it would have been a case of so near so far but instead it was the fifth ball and Ireland threw away two chances to win the game from the previous two deliveries.

A fumble by Adair in gathering a throw from backward square and then one to the 'wrong end' and more mishandling allowed West Indies to complete two singles and Ireland's chance of repeating their World Cup win in 2015 had gone.

"It felt like the longest over I'd ever been involved in, said Balbirnie in the post-match press conference. "There's a lot of distraught guys in there.

"I thought we did everything we could to win but you have to hand it to their lower order the way they batted. But we had enough opportunities and to come away losing by a wicket is hugely disappointing."

"I thought we were 20-30 short, on what was still a pretty good wicket. Stirlo and Purdy (Paul Stirling and William Porterfield) had set it up so well, then we lost wickets in clusters, but to get 237 on a used wicket we knew we were in the game if we bowled well up top and Barry (McCarthy) and Andy (McBrine) did that very well.

"Barry bowled outstandingly, one of his better spells for Ireland, Simi (Singh) was brilliant again and Boyd (Rankin) in his bursts, it was such an impressive effort."

But Balbirnie knows that when the opposition needs 90 with just three wickets left, even with 21 overs to go, they should finish them off.

But it proved a tale of two rain breaks. After the first, Ireland took three wickets for eight runs in 17 balls but the second break surrendered the momentum and allowed West Indies' eighth wicket pair of Khary Pierre and Hayden Walsh to regroup and add another 43 runs.

That took the hosts through the psychological 200 barrier and when Joseph joined Walsh to add 32 for the ninth wicket, a Windies win looked a formality.

McBrine conceded just one run off the penultimate over but both batsmen survived to take everyone into the nerve-shredding 50th over. Cottrell held his.

Balbirnie, rightly, though, insisted "we played some decent cricket and we can take positives from that", going into tomorrow's final ODI in Grenada.

Stirling passed 50 for the seventh time in his last eight ODIs, Singh put in his best all-round performance and Kevin O'Brien and Porterfield, in his 300th game, both looked in good nick.

But in the end, the result is all that matters, as Balbirnie admitted.

"It would be easy to say we ran West Indies close but we're here to win series and we didn't.

"Our performances in the field and with the ball in the last two games have been good and if we could just get someone to push on with the bat to build a big score round, then I'm confident we can get a win."

Belfast Telegraph


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