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Ireland have got to get into swing of it, says Balbirnie

Big hitter: Lorcan Tucker top scored for Ireland with 31
Big hitter: Lorcan Tucker top scored for Ireland with 31

By Ian Callender

New captain Andrew Balbirnie has described Ireland's batting in the first one-day international against the West Indies as a blip and expects them to turn it round when the teams meet again at the Kensington Oval this evening (5.30pm GMT).

Defending a total of 180 after winning the toss in the day/night game was mission impossible for the bowlers, who, with one exception, stuck to their task and took five wickets before the powerful West Indies line-up eased to victory in the 34th over.

A series of poor shots (rash was the word Balbirnie used) from even the most experienced batsmen proved Ireland's downfall and led to inevitable defeat.

"We were aiming for 250-plus on that pitch," said the skipper. "I don't think (the West Indies) bowled particularly well, but when you have guys in nick, they want to hit the ball, but sometimes in international cricket you have to pace yourself a bit more.

"Lorcan (Tucker) showed his determination and that's something the rest of us have to work on for the next game."

Tucker, who retained the gloves from Ireland's last ODI action against Zimbabwe in July when Gary Wilson was rested, ended top scorer with 31, with only two of his 67 balls reaching the boundary, and his partnership with Mark Adair (29 off 34, including one of the two sixes in the innings) rescued Ireland from the perils of 88-6.

It was only the first match of a busy 2020 for Ireland but the selection will have been a devastating blow for Wilson, a veteran of 105 ODIs who certainly wasn't rested this time, and indeed there was no place for Waringstown's James McCollum either, with the team opting for all three spin options and giving an ODI debut to Gareth Delany.

Balbirnie explained the thinking.

"James' game is in a pretty good place, he's chomping at the bit, and with our flexibility either he or Gareth could have played, but Gareth batted well the other night (in the final warm-up game) and came back well with the ball, and after a chat we decided Gareth was the best option," he said.

"Lorcan did well when he played last year and we are keen to give him a run. In the future, he can be a real gem for us. He's known as a free-flowing batsman but he showed grit when it wasn't that easy and with wickets falling round him, and that was pleasing to see.

"But there are three guys in the wings (Craig Young is the other) who could easily come in, we are a very flexible team."

In the end, mainly because of the low total, Delany's leg spin wasn't used, with Andy McBrine, who opened the bowling, and Simi Singh's off-spin picking up three wickets in 17 overs, and Adair, who bowled too short and conceded 24 in his two overs, did not need to come back.

Boyd Rankin bowled seven overs for 26 runs and deserved the late wicket of Roston Chase, a brutal lifting ball which was edged through to Tucker, while Barry McCarthy picked up his usual wicket and was unlucky on a number of occasions.

No-one could remove opener Evin Lewis, who finished 99 not out, the winning runs a four rather than the six which would have given him his century.

"All I asked at half-time was for them to throw their bodies round, make them hit our good balls and we did that pretty well. I know we've lost by five wickets but to go out there and defend 180 for their lives was brilliant to see," said Balbirnie.

"We know we need to improve our batting 100 per cent, but if we can get big totals on the board batting first then I'm excited for what we can do."

Cricket Ireland yesterday announced the 19 contracted players for the year with Delany a new addition, and indeed the only one of the 17 players in Barbados - T20 squad members George Dockrell, Harry Tector and Josh Little are already here for next week's three-match series - who has not got a full-time contract is 20-year-old left-arm pace bowler Little.

Shane Getkate, for the first time, Stuart Thompson and Tyrone Kane are the other three who have contracts for 2020.

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