With a combination of tenacity and luck, West Indies overcame Ireland by one wicket with one ball remaining in the second Colonial Medical Insurance One-Day International at Kensington Oval yesterday to take a winning 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Chasing 238 for victory and seemingly down and out at 148 for seven in the 29th over, West Indies recovered through an admirable partnership of 52 in 10.1 overs between Khary Pierre and Hayden Walsh Jr and then Walsh and Alzarri Joseph added 32 in 8.5 overs.
Amidst the excitement, Ireland, or to be more precise, a nervous Mark Adair, missed two golden opportunities to run out last man Sheldon Cottrell, who ended the match by driving pacer Adair over cover for six.
Better known for his leg-spin bowling but one who takes his batting seriously as a left-hander, Walsh was unbeaten on a career-best 46 off 67 balls including four boundaries in his seventh match, though only his third innings.
As he reflected on his knock, the 27-year-old Walsh revealed that he gained inspiration by the tenth anniversary of the death of his father, himself a former cricketer, who represented Antigua and the Leeward Islands as a batsman.
“Today (January 9) marks the 10th anniversary of my father’s death and I got that inspiration to take the team over the line,” Walsh told reporters.
“It was a bit overwhelming. I was talking myself through the whole innings and to get over the line was like a long journey. Felt like I had just run a whole marathon.”
There were two significant landmarks as far as the victory was concerned. Not since 2014 had West Indies won an ODI series in the Caribbean and it was also their 400th ODI triumph.
While one should not get carried away with the success in light of the opposition, there are signs that West Indies are determined to turn around their fortunes under Kieron Pollard, who was appointed captain last October of both the ODI and Twenty20 teams.
White-ball cricket is Pollard’s game. He often talks about being positive and though some of his tactics on the field are sometimes questionable, he carries an air of confidence, which can only inspire the side.
Fast bowler Joseph grabbed four for 32 off ten overs yesterday – co-incidentally his same figures in the five-wicket win in the first match on Tuesday as he again captured the Player-of-the-Match award.
Kensington is turning out to be one of Joseph’s favourite grounds as he also took four for 76 against England at the venue in an ODI in 2017.
In relation to yesterday’s match, Ireland must be very hurt.
Their batting showed a marked improvement from the first match when they were dismissed for 180 in 46.1 overs before opener Evin Lewis’ unbeaten 99 off the same number of balls with 13 fours and two sixes spurred West Indies to victory.
Now, in a total of 237 for nine after they again won the toss, opener Paul Stirling led the way, hitting 63 off 79 balls including seven fours and one six before he was fourth out with the score 129 in the 27th over, bowled by Joseph.
Left-arm pacer Cottrell picked up three for 51 off ten overs.
The West Indies batting was given a good test and by the ninth over the score was 24 for three, losing the wickets of Lewis (seven), Shimron Hetmyer (six) and Brandon King (nought).
Shai Hope and Nicholas Pooran then put on 52 in 9.3 overs for the fourth wicket before Hope fell for 25.
When Pooran and Pollard were together and scoring freely, Ireland were forced to search for answers. The pair added 64 in 7.5 overs before Pooran was bowled by off-spinner Simi Singh for 52 off 44 balls including six fours.
Pollard fell in the next over, well caught and bowled by medium-pacer Barry McCarthy for 40 off 32 balls containing four sixes and two fours. He had shown his attacking intentions from early with massive sixes over long-on as he mainly tore into rookie leg-spinner Gareth Delany.
And when Romario Shepherd fell for eight off Singh to leave the score 148 for seven in the 29th over, Ireland were well in command.
In the circumstances, credit must be given to the fight exhibited by Pierre, Walsh, Joseph and Cottrell.
Walsh was very positive in partnership with Pierre (18) but then tempered while Joseph (16) kept his company with a few attacking strokes.
Anxiety ultimately proved to be Ireland’s undoing. With four needed for victory, Cottrell was out of his crease when the throw went to bowler Adair whose hands struck the stumps as he dropped the ball and then with both batsmen at the bowler’s end, he again fumbled another run out chance before Cottrell clinched a thriller.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Walsh said. “I went down to Sheldon and he said he was not in but he thinks the guy dropped the ball, so I was more confident on that one. The last one, I didn’t expect him to come back for [a second run], because the guy had the ball in his hands, so I didn’t want to take any unwanted risks and lose a wicket.
“I also backed Sheldon to do his part. I wasn’t looking to get the strike unless it was the last ball. I was hoping that he would get a single or we could scramble one and I could face the last ball.”
As they look to complete a clean sweep on Sunday in Grenada, questions must certainly be asked about the performances of King and Hetmyer.
In this series, King has 20 runs and Hetmyer 14. King has played only three ODIs and will recognise that the international game calls for much more concentration than the domestic T20 stuff. In Hetmyer’s case, his manner of dismissals after 45 ODIs in which he has 1430 runs (ave: 36.66) including five centuries will again bring his temperament into sharp focus.
For the moment, however, West Indies will savour this success while seeking to add the three-match T20 series as well.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer
and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org).
Email: [email protected]