KINGSTON, Jamaica – West Indies will chase a series win when they face Ireland in the rescheduled second One-Day International on Thursday, even as the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hover ominously over the three-match series.
The Caribbean side pulled off a 24-run win in Saturday’s opener at Sabina Park but three COVID cases in the Ireland camp 24 hours later, forced Cricket West Indies to postpone the second ODI which had been carded for Tuesday.
With no further positive tests in the intervening period, the headlines appear ready to be made on the field and bowling coach Roddy Estwick said it was critical West Indies remained focused amidst the off-field disruptions.
“COVID has been with us now for nearly two years and obviously there are going to be disruptions, we know that,” he told an online media conference on Wednesday.
“We had disruptions in Pakistan [last month] and we had disruptions before. It’s all about staying professional, it’s all about making sure that when you are going to play you’re ready. You’ve got to make sure your preparations are spot on.
“I thought we had a very good preparation today. The boys looked focused – obviously it’s a much younger team and people are willing to share knowledge and to find out more and having more discussions.
“Once you can keep them focused, that’s the key. Once you can [do that], and it’s up to the management group to make sure they’re comfortable and the players are ready to go play cricket.”
Ireland lost key batsman Paul Stirling to COVID before the side left Florida where they played a three-match Twenty20 series against United States, and then had Simi Singh and Ben White ruled out when they tested positive before the first ODI here.
Captain Andy Balbirnie, who top-scored with 71 in Ireland’s failed pursuit of 270 in the first ODI, was one of the three to test positive following the game, along with wicketkeeper Lorcan Tucker and interim head coach David Ripley.
Untouched by the virus, however, West Indies dominated on the field, racking up 269 last Saturday courtesy of half-centuries from debutant Shamarh Brooks (93) and captain Kieron Pollard (69).
And fast bowlers Alzarri Joseph and Romario Shepherd then put the finishing touches on the result with three-wicket hauls, despite Balbirnie’s effort and Harry Tector’s 53.
In spite of the win and the strides made in some areas, Estwick said West Indies were still anxious to improve on their opening performance.
“One of the things [we tried] was to minimise the dot balls [when we batted] – there’s no secret that we need to improve on that,” he explained.
“But obviously the pitch here in Jamaica, especially in the first innings, the ball seamed around quite a bit in the morning so we were prepared not to lose too many wickets and then push on at the back end and I thought we did that well for the first ten overs.
“Then we lost our way a bit … but had a very good partnership between Brooks and Pollard of 155 off 135 balls but then we lost our way [again] at the back end. So those are areas we still need to improve on. We have to make sure that when we have the momentum we have to keep the momentum.”
He continued: “I think the running between the wickets has gotten better … so there are encouraging signs but we know the areas we need to improve on so we’ve got to continue to work on [them].
“From a bowling point of view, we’re trying to improve our death bowling. The first power-play was very, very good … then Ireland came back into the game quite nicely but between overs 31 and 40 were excellent [for us], getting three wickets for 44 runs. And then we were even better at the back end, getting six wickets for 60-odd runs.
“We’ve got to keep trying to improve. We’re looking at trying to get it (total) up to 320 but if the pitch is not conducive to that type of score, there’s no point trying to get 320 and be bowled out for 150.”
Though Ireland have lost key players to COVID, Estwick warned his side against complacency.
“You leave which ever country you’re from with 18, 20 international cricketers and [they’ve] got to be able to adjust,” he stressed.
“We cannot underestimate Ireland because remember their key player, Paul Stirling, he’s back tomorrow so they’ve actually strengthened, so we can’t underestimate them.
“We’ve got to stick to our game plans, stay disciplined, stay focussed and you cannot let your standards drop based on the opposition.”
WEST INDIES – Kieron Pollard (captain), Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Justin Greaves, Jason Holder, Gudakesh Motie, Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran, Devon Thomas, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Jayden Seales, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith.
IRELAND – Paul Stirling (captain), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, George Dockrell, Josh Little, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, William Porterfield, Neil Rock, Harry Tector, Craig Young. (CMC)