[www.inewsguyana.com] – A lethargic West Indies slumped to an embarrassing four-wicket loss to minnows Ireland in Nelson, New Zealand on Monday, as their ICC Cricket World Cup campaign began in nightmare fashion at Saxton Oval.
Defending 304 for seven on a flat track in great batting conditions following Lendl Simmons’ second one-day hundred, the Windies attack bowled poorly and the Irish capitalized, comfortably reaching their target with 25 deliveries left in the innings.
They were propelled by Man-of-the-Match opener Paul Stirling who smashed 92 off 84 deliveries, anchored two key partnerships at the top of the order and kept Ireland ticking along in the early stages ahead of the required run rate.
He was supported by Ed Joyce who struck 84 from 67 balls and Niall O’Brien whose unbeaten 79 came from just 60 balls.
O’Brien’s presence was especially crucial in the late stages when Ireland wobbled briefly with victory in sight, losing four wickets for 18 runs in the space of 28 balls.
Fast bowler Jerome Taylor, whose first three overs gushed 33 runs, woke up with the game already gone to finish with three for 71.
His fellow seamers were all guilty of serving up fodder, as Kemar Roach sent down six overs for 52 runs and Andre Russell, six mundane overs which cost 33.
Captain Jason Holder looked the most menacing but claimed a single wicket for 44 runs from his nine overs.
West Indies had earlier fought back from the brink of collapse with Simmons stroking a superb 102 off 84 balls and Darren Sammy a typically fierce cameo 89 off 67 deliveries.
The pair put on a brilliant 154 for the sixth wicket which pulled West Indies around from a dodgy position of 87 for five in the 24th over, after they were sent in.
Left-arm spinner George Dockrell did the early damage, eventually finishing with three for 50.
Opener Chris Gayle made a sedate 36 off 65 balls with three fours and a six while Russell hammered an unbeaten 27 off 13 balls at the death. Marlon Samuels made an uncertain 21 from 41 deliveries.
West Indies started cautiously with Gayle and Dwayne Smith (18) putting on 30 off 45 balls, before the slide started.
Smith was the first to fall, holing out to John Mooney at long on off seamer Kevin O’Brien in the eighth over, after 24 balls at the crease and striking three fours.
Darren Bravo followed three balls later in the same over, run out without facing a delivery in a mix-up with Gayle over a quick single.
Gayle and Samuels then stemmed the flow of wickets with a 47-run, third wicket stand. The left-handed Gayle and Samuels, who struck a four and a six, were both setting the innings up nicely before both fell in the space of three deliveries in the 22nd over.
First, Gayle holed out to long on off Dockrell and two balls later, Samuels played back and was trapped lbw. In Dockrell’s next over, wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin missed a sweep and was also lbw for one, leaving West Indies’ lower order exposed.
However, Sammy led the revival for West Indies in a whirlwind innings decorated by nine fours and four sixes. He reached his ninth ODI half-century off 45 balls and then accelerated despite struggling with a back niggle which required on-the-field treatment.
Simmons, content to play second fiddle to Sammy’s fireworks in the initial stages, blossomed to register nine fours and five sixes, with the last of these boundaries – a pull through square off in the final over off seamer Max Sorenson – raising his century.
When Sammy holed out in the deep off luckless seamer John Mooney in the 45th over, Simmons and Russell added a further 61 for the seventh wicket, as Ireland leaked 123 runs from the final ten overs.
Ireland started briskly, with their first 50 coming from 46 balls and their second off 110. At the heart of the enterprise was Stirling, who slammed nine fours and three sixes in a 71-run opening stand with captain Williams Porterfield who got 23.
The Windies needed Gayle’s unpracticed off-spin to gain the breakthough, as he claimed Porterfield in the 14th over, caught behind off a bottom edge.
Any hopes West Indies entertained of running through the Irish innings were quickly diminished as two powerful partnerships emphatically put the game in Ireland’s favour.
Firstly, Stirling combined with Joyce to add a 106 for the second wicket, with the 36-year-old left-handed Joyce belting ten fours and two sixes.
When Stirling edged off-spinner Samuels behind with his sixth ODI hundred in touching distance, O’Brien joined Joyce in a 96-run, third wicket stand which killed off West Indies.
O’Brien stroked 11 fours in a measured innings, picking off boundaries at will during the middle overs to keep Ireland’s momentum going.
He lost Joyce in the 40th over, holing out to Bravo at deep cover off Taylor, and Andy Balbirnie followed in Taylor’s next over, also caught by Bravo at deep midwicket for nine with the score on 285 for four.
Gary Wilson (1) and Kevin O’Brien (0) perished in successive overs as Ireland slumped to 291 for six in the 45th but despite the drama, Ireland were never really in danger and Mooney sealed the Caribbean side’s fate with an edged boundary over the ’keeper in the next over. (Windies Cricket)