IRELAND v WEST INDIES, SAXTON OVAL, NELSON, 16 FEBRUARY 2015
The idyllic environs of Saxton Oval must have invigorated the players. They provided splendid cricket through the day. The sedate maiden opening over by John Mooney to Dwayne Smith, though, was hardly a harbinger of things to come. Smith and Chris Gayle raised 30 in 7.3 overs, before Smith holed out to long-on. Darren Bravo was run out without facing a ball. Soon, at 87 for five in 23.3 overs, West Indies found themselves in a spot of bother.
Lendl Simmons and Daren Sammy stemmed the tide and then stepped on the pedal. Sammy was first to his half-century in 45 balls. Simmons launched into Kevin O’Brien in the 44th over, slamming him for 22.214.171.124.2.4. He got to his fifty off that first six, having faced 60 deliveries. Sammy lofted Mooney to the square-leg boundary, then launched into it again. The ball went through the fielder for a six. He holed out next ball. His superb 89 came off just 67 balls, slamming 4 sixes and 9 fours. The brilliant stand was worth 154 in 21.1 overs.
Simmons was now cruising, and Andre Russell joined in the fun. Kevin O’Brien once again came in for special treatment in the 48th over. Simmons carved two boundaries on the off-side, Russell slammed the last two for a four and a six; 19 runs off the over. Mooney came in the line of fire, Simmons crashing him on the on-side for a six, and Russell hammering a boundary to square-leg; 15 runs in this over. Simmons hammered one to the mid-wicket fence, bringing up a tremendous hundred on World Cup debut in just 83 deliveries. But he was caught in the covers next ball, having slammed 5 sixes and 9 boundaries. West Indies finished on 304 for seven, Russell returning undefeated with a characteristic, blistering 27 off 13 balls.
There was an ominous start to the Irish innings. Skipper Jason’s Holder’s huge in-swinger to the southpaw William Porterfield ran away for five wides. Porterfield hooked Kemar Roach for a six. Paul Stirling slammed a string of boundaries. At 71, Gayle had Porterfield caught behind by Denesh Ramdin for 23 off the third ball of the 14th over.
With Edmund Joyce in, Stirling raised his half-century off 49 balls. The two picked up pace, hammering 43 in three overs including 2 sixes and 7 fours. Joyce raced to his fifty off 39 deliveries. But in the same over Stirling was snapped up by Ramdin off Marlon Samuels. His superb 92 came off only 84 balls, comprising 3 sixes and 9 fours. The partnership was worth 106 in just 14.2 overs. Niall O’Brien kept up the tempo with Joyce. With judicious singles and twos interspersed with boundaries, the asking-rate kept sliding down. When Niall O’Brien raised his half-century off a mere 38 balls, just 46 runs were required from 71 deliveries.
Surely it was going to be a cake-walk now. Jerome Taylor had Joyce caught for 84. The runs came in 67 deliveries, containing 2 sixes and 10 fours. It was a rousing 96-run stand in just 11.3 overs. Taylor snapped up two wickets in consecutive overs. Next over, Kevin O’Brien was run out for a duck. There was a flutter at 290 for six, but only 15 were required off 37 balls. Niall O’Brien crafted two boundaries. Ireland were soon home. Niall O’Brien was unbeaten with 79 off 60 balls, having hit 11 fours. It was a stunning upset by Ireland, chasing over 300 with ease. The jubilant captain Porterfield reflected, “300 was probably about par as we knew the pitch was good with a very quick outfield, so we felt it was well within grasp.”
West Indies 304 for seven wickets (50 overs), Ireland 307 for six wickets (45.5 overs)