2020 has only just begun with more than eleven months of cricketing drama lying ahead of us.
Yet, it seems that we may have already seen one of the best 50-over games of the entire year.
Better still, a contest that may have even been by far the most thrilling one featuring the West Indies and Ireland, two teams that have been contesting one another for well over half a decade.
What fans always want are close finishes and thrillers and what the Second ODI at one of Caribbean Cricket’s spiritual homes- at Kennsington Oval, Barbados- offered was a sheer nail-biter.
Against a template of a low scoring outing, both sides struggled to get going on different occasions, Ireland scoring well initially while the West Indians scored predominantly in the middle stages of their chase after witnessing another top and middle-order failure.
A game that had it all, plenty of extras from both sides, a last over run-chase against overwhelming odds, Ireland nearly running over their hosts, an unexpected game-changing partnership among two tailenders and a brilliant display of bowling by the men in bright greens, it was hard to say who endured more thrill- were it the enchanted fans at Barbados or the 11 men on either side?
In winning their second consecutive 50-over contest, the men in maroon now have an unassailable lead in the 3-match series. But what were the big highlights from the Second ODI between West Indies and Ireland?
The West Indies Lower Order Shows Fight
Hayden Walsh dedicated his batting effort to his late father and Windies fans (Willow TV)
Hayden Walsh jr., the true batting hero of the successful run-chase dedicated his effort- an unbeaten 46 off 67 deliveries, including 4 boundaries- to his late father, confessing the fans spurred him to do his best for the team.
On the other hand, the unflustered and very imperceptible Alzarri Joseph- 16 off 26, including 3 gorgeous boundaries- hardly gave an emotion away as he batted with immense grit and control to bring the West Indies back into the game when Pierre- 18 off 29- was left undone by McBrine.
With 5 needed off the final 6 deliveries and then finally 2 needed of 2, that the winning runs came at the back of Cottell’s massive heave over cover that went for a six was about as adrenaline-pumping a moment for his team as it was devastating and heartbreaking for the Irish.
Yet the true cricket fan who regarded the contest as the victory of the sport itself couldn’t shy from offering a salute in the end.
Fantastic Bowling By Andy McBrine
Spare a thought. Spare a thought for the brilliant bowling by one of Ireland’s most underrated but effective spinners- Andy McBrine.
A bowler who gave it everything to put a tight lid on the Caribbean scoring, particularly when the chasing batsmen had broken off the shackles, McBrine’s useful off-spinners were as handy in the death overs of a truly unforgettable limited-overs contest as right at the start.
Among the big highlights from the second ODI between West Indies and Ireland was the right-arm spinner’s discipline throughout the game.
In order to gauge just how accurate and precise were McBrine’s off-spinners, one only had to look at the way someone like an Evin Lewis and Shai Hope were restricted for room, despite batting on a surface where scoring didn’t seem all that difficult.
McBrine first removed the danger-man Lewis and later, the well-set Kharry Pierre who seemed capable of exerting the pressure alone that Joseph and Cottrell provided toward the end stages.
Pooran and Pollard’s Fireworks
The fantastic and threatening stand between the middle-order batsman Pooran and the lower-middle order specialist Pollard was among the notable highlights from the Second ODI between West Indies and Ireland.
Pollard arrived at the crease when the usually stable and sincere Shai Hope had departed.
At that time, the team was already in a precarious situation, the likes of Hetmyer, and Lewis back in the dugout.
That King departed for a duck, the young right-hander wasting another opportunity to make it count, only made the matters worse for the troubled chasing side.
But from thereon began a powerful and exhilarating stand between Pollard and Pooran, the two functioning into a master and apprentice fashion, compiling the 64-run stand that brought the team back into the business having already been pushed to the brink.
While Pooran, who top-scored for his team and also brought up his maiden fifty against the Irish was severe to anything short and in sublime tough especially toward the square of the wicket, Pollard didn’t take long to announce his intentions, lifting the clueless Delany for a massive six over long-on on just the second ball of his inning.
A flurry of sixes flew to the top of the roof from the unsparing blade of the big Pollard, soon after, the duo gathering 15 runs from the 18th over bowled by Delany only to collect 19 in the 20th over, the young Irishman left utterly flustered.
Simi Singh Shows Lot Of Heart With The Bat And Ball
Is Simi Singh among the best spinners that Ireland have produced in a long time and a talent that could be mentored to become an all-rounder.
Among the most undersung contributions that made the highlights from the Second ODI between West Indies and Ireland came at the behest of one of Ireland’s most impressive talents.
When the batting seemed to be in the doldrums, Singh fired a useful 34 off 50 and struck 3 fours. He provided useful runs down the order that one saw eventually all but challenged the West Indies successfully in the end.
Above anything, that Singh’s vital effort from the bat fetched his team more runs than contributed by both Kevin O’Brien and William Porterfield is a measure of the calm cricketer’s utility.
Later, when he came out to bowl, Simi removed the well-set Hope who one saw dragged on for long without much success and even dislodged the dangerous Pooran from the crease with a peach of a delivery that left the batsman clueless.
The Brilliant Alzarri Joseph
Brilliant all day with the ball and then fantastically cool, and composed in pressure later, Alzarri Joseph had a day where one might say it was hard to decide what he did best.
Was his four-for, the match-winning spell the true defining moment at Barbados or was that remarkable over against McCarthy where he fired two back-to-back boundaries lifting the ball over the bowler’s head, gun-barrel straight among the true highlights from the Second ODI between West Indies and Ireland?
But Joseph’s exploits in the 48th over of the West Indian run-chase where it did seem that the Caribbean side was out on its way giving to Ireland’s superior show with the ball proved the real game-changing effort for the home team.