Yet more heartbreak for Ireland in this summer of near-misses as their bid to end the one-day international series against New Zealand with a win ended in a cruel one-run defeat.
In what would have been the fifth-highest chase in ODI history, Ireland needed three to win from the last ball but could only scramble a bye as they finished on 359 for nine, 28 more than they had ever scored in a 50-over international.
It was debutant Graham Hume, in for the injured Mark Adair, who had the chance to claim glory but he failed to make contact with the final ball as the No.1-ranked side again found a way to win, just as they had done in the first game which was won by one wicket.
Add on the four-run defeat in the second T20 international against India last month and it’s little wonder that the Ireland players were devastated last night, despite putting up their best ever batting performance.
A record third-wicket stand of 179 between Paul Stirling and Harry Tector laid the platform for the thrilling chase, Stirling going to his 13th ODI century after a run of 11 innings without a 50 and Tector hitting his second hundred five days after his first.
Stirling was the first to go, caught at deep mid-wicket, and when Tector followed him back to the dressing room with 50 still wanted from 39 balls, the pressure was put on the lower order. But this Ireland team never know when to give up.
George Dockrell hit 22 off 16 balls before, going for his first six, it fell inches short of the long-on boundary and with 10 wanted off the last over, Craig Young hit the third ball for four to leave Ireland needing five from three.
However, next ball, he and Hume decided to go for a risky second run and Young didn’t make it to leave Josh Little on strike for the penultimate delivery. They thought about going for the second run again, which would have left them needing only one to get a Super Over, but they decided to leave Hume on strike and it wasn’t to be.
It was left to head coach Heinrich Malan to put the squad’s disappointment into words.
“We’ve played some good cricket over the last two weeks and not getting over the line is obviously the sticking point,” he said. “But while results are hugely important, I put a lot of emphasis on the way we play and how we go about our business and if we keep playing that brand of cricket we are on the right track.”
New Zealand had won the toss and on the hardest pitch of the week, captain Tom Latham had no hesitation in choosing to bat first.
Martin Guptill took full advantage to score his 18th ODI hundred off 116 balls with 13 fours and two sixes before he was out in the 38th over for 115, leg before to Gareth Delany, who had replaced Simi Singh to give Ireland variety in the spin department.
It was Andy McBrine who proved the most accurate bowler but even he went for almost six runs an over on a batting day when 719 runs were scored.