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Balbirnie shines but Irish still fall to series defeat


Captain’s innings: Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie top scored with 71 yesterday but received little support as West Indies completed a 3-0 ODI series victory
Captain’s innings: Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie top scored with 71 yesterday but received little support as West Indies completed a 3-0 ODI series victory

By Ian Callender

It was the one toss that Andrew Balbirnie so desperately wanted to win. But after calling correctly in his first two games as Ireland captain, he got it wrong in the third one-day international of the series.

With a 9am start and showers forecast, West Indies skipper Kieron Pollard had no hesitation in asking Ireland to bat first and it duly proved a struggle for the tourists.

Balbirnie came good with the bat after scores of 16 and 10 in the first two games, but the drinks break interrupted his concentration and he holed out to backward point after making 71. The next top score was Andy McBrine's 25 not out and Ireland had to try and defend 203 in the hot afternoon sun in front of a baying Grenada crowd.

It was a no contest. Evin Lewis, stranded on 99 not out when West Indies won the first game, made no mistake this time, going to his third ODI century from 96 balls with his sixth four plus five sixes.

The landmark left the home side with five to win but for the second time Lewis failed to finish the innings with a six, this time landing in the hands of Kevin O'Brien at long-off.

McBrine, with another never-say-die bowling display, kept the natives waiting for the victory as he had Romario Shephard caught at long-off in the next over and it was left to Nik Pooran to give West Indies a five-wicket victory in the 37th over.

Barry McCarthy got his usual wicket up front and Simi Singh bowled another accurate 10-over spell but Mark Adair, still troubled by his ankle, bowled only two overs.

Craig Young, who had taken a wicket in each of his first 13 ODIs - although his last was in May 2017 - was one of two changes in the Ireland team as Boyd Rankin sat this one out with a back problem and James McCollum replaced Gareth Delany as Paul Stirling's opening partner.

Stirling had already been comprehensively beaten twice by Oshane Thomas, one of three changes in the West Indies side which had scraped to a one-wicket series-deciding victory in Barbados on Thursday, when he decided to run down the pitch and was caught behind.

McCollum, by contrast, had started like a runaway train, with four superbly timed boundaries, but only one of them off Thomas and when he tried to drive him through the covers, Lewis held a fine diving catch.

The first rain arrived with Ireland on 44-2 after 15 overs, and 14 balls after the resumption William Porterfield was leg before, sweeping Roston Chase.

Ireland were probably grateful for the second rain break during the next over but the innings failed to build any momentum.

O'Brien was the next to fall, picking out the sweeper on the cover boundary with unerring accuracy, and Hayden Walsh then snared Lorcan Tucker with a googly which just glanced the stumps and needed a review by the TV umpire.

With Ireland 112-5, Balbirnie decided the best way forward was to attack and he hit two fours and two sixes in his next 12 balls but it was Walsh who claimed his wicket which led to a collapse of three wickets in 23 balls for 10 runs, as the leg spinner followed up by dismissing Singh leg before and Adair with a skyer to square leg.

McBrine hit Alzaari Joseph, the man of the match in the first two games, for successive boundaries - including his first six since the World Cup qualifier against UAE in March 2018 - but McCarthy, who was caught at long-on, and Young couldn't keep him company for the full distance.

The three-match clean sweep was almost inevitable.

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