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Fitness test for Balbirnie ahead of Irish quest to seal series win

 

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Hot stuff: Gareth Delany

Hot stuff: Gareth Delany

�INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Hot stuff: Gareth Delany

Andrew Balbirnie had a fitness test before last night's third Twenty20 international in St Kitts to determine if he could lead the Ireland side into the series-deciding match against West Indies.

Balbirnie was unable to field on Saturday night after feeling a hamstring twinge during the abandoned second game, which preserved Ireland's 1-0 lead going into the final match of their tour.

It is likely that the new captain would have played on on Saturday night if there had been a couple of days' rest, but with back-to-back matches under the lights, he passed on the captaincy to Paul Stirling when Ireland took the field to defend their under-par 147-9.

As it turned out, the third rain delay of the match restricted the West Indies innings to just 13 balls - Stirling opened the bowling and took the only wicket - and the no-result means Ireland cannot lose the three-match series. Indeed, with more rain forecast on the Caribbean island, Ireland could win their first ever away series against a Full Member nation.

However, it looked as if the rain saved Ireland on Saturday because a DLS target of 152 in 19 overs looked a formality for the West Indies on a small ground - the straight boundaries were barely 60m long.

Stirling and O'Brien, who had put on a record 154 for the first wicket in the first T20 in Grenada, were both back in the pavilion this time at the start of the fifth over with just 23 on the board. Although Balbirnie and Gareth Delany added 72 in 43 balls for the third wicket and Harry Tector maintained the momentum with 31 off 23 balls, he received no support and Ireland scored only 52 in the final eight overs - three fewer than on Wednesday.

Delany stole the show with four successive sixes off leg spinner Hayden Walsh, the second going out of the ground at long-on, but Windies skipper Kieron Pollard changed the game.

With his second ball, he had Delany caught just inside the boundary attempting his sixth maximum, and in his remaining three overs he had Balbirnie caught at deep cover, bowled Wilson the ball after he had been dropped at mid-wicket, and forced George Dockrell to lob one straight back to him, to finish with career-best figures of 4-25, which included a last-over six from Tector.

The second rain delay reduced the Ireland innings to 19 overs, and they had to return to face just three balls which proved rather embarrassing with Simi Singh caught behind and two farcical run-outs without a run added, Josh Little playing no stroke to the final ball and not running.

Scores: Ireland 147-9 (19 overs, G Delany 44, A Balbirnie 36, H Tector 31, P Stirling 17; K Pollard 4-25) West Indies 16-1 (2.1 overs). No result. Ireland lead three-match series 1-0.

Belfast Telegraph