West Indies middle-order batsman Shamarh Brooks was the difference today as the Maroon Men held off Ireland to win the first of three CG Insurance One-day Internationals (ODI) at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica.
Brooks, who made his ODI debut at the ripe age of 33, scored 93 runs (89 balls, 9 x 4, 3 x 6) as West Indies posted 269 all out in 48.5 overs. It did not always look to be an easy total to defend.
Ireland were 165-1 at one point thanks to a 103-run partnership between captain Andy Balbirnie and Harry Tector. But pacer Romario Shepherd had Balbirnie (71) caught behind by Shai Hope, while Alzarri Joseph helped mop up the tail as Ireland were eventually bundled out for 245 with five balls left.
All’s well that ends well?
West Indies need a clean sweep over Ireland to remain in contention for an automatic berth at the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India. Today’s result saw them climb from eighth to fifth place.
The top eight ranked nations advance directly to the World Cup, while the remaining nations will compete for two spots in a qualifying tournament. Before today’s outing, Pollard noted the mental challenge in facing ‘minnows’.
“The sad reality is […]–and this might be taken out of context– […] if we were to win all three games, it’s something that people will expect us to do,” Pollard told ESPN. “But if we were to lose, then that brings a different perspective. There’s a no-win situation there.
“But hopefully, we can still hit the ground running and improve in the areas we need to. Small, small areas, running between the wickets, communication, rotation of strike, and continue to get better as cricketers.
“These are some of the things we’ve identified and want to execute. And from a bowling perspective, in the back-end of the innings, nailing our yorkers and improving our skill-sets as cricketers.”
Pollard had some encouraging words for West Indies’ debutants as well.
“You just need to believe in yourself,” he said, “you just need to go out there with a free mind and not think about anything and carry any sort of baggage from wherever and just focus on, when you’re batting, focus on that ball, focus on what the team requires, focus on your skill-set and just have a free mind.”
Brooks was just 18 when he made his first-class debut for Barbados. But it took him another 12 years to make his West Indies bow with the Test team. And, two years later, his first shot at the ODI version of the game might owe a lot to the absence of Shimron Hetmyer due to fitness concerns.
“At the end of it, all the other things become irrelevant when you’re out there in battle,” said Pollard. “Some guys will be nervous, there’s no doubt. But the faster that nervousness gets out, the easier it will be.”
West Indies were 59 for 2 when Brooks replaced Nicholas Pooran at the crease for the final ball of the 17th over. And, in the space of two overs, the hosts also lost Hope and Roston Chase for the addition of just three runs.
However, Brooks and Pollard (69, 66b, 6 x4, 4 x 6) steadied the ship with a partnership of 155 for the fifth wicket, before the WI captain holed out to Harry Tector on the boundary off Craig Young.
Brooks oozed class against the generally non-threatening but disciplined offerings of the Irish bowling attack. But he lost his composure when he entered the ‘nervous 90s’.
At the start of the 44th over, Brooks offered a sitter to Gareth Delany at backward square-leg only for the fielder to drop it. Yet the Barbadian still failed to navigate the over as Mark Adair trapped him lbw for 93—seven runs short of becoming the first West Indies player since Sir Desmond Haynes to score a century on debut.
Brooks admitted that he had had no clue about the Haynes landmark at the time but wishes he could face that Adair delivery again.
“It is a learning curve at this level,” said Brooks, about his failure to get a century, “but I will take this one on the chin and look to grow from strength to strength.”
Odean Smith offered a cameo at the death with 18 runs off eight balls, which included a six that crashed onto the roof of substitute Sheldon Cottrell’s baby blue Range Rover.
When Ireland took the crease, Smith was wayward at times—but his two flush on the helmet, the Irish number three being eventually forced to retire hurt on 34.
The second skidded into Balbirnie, making contact near his jawbone. One ball later, the Irish captain was gone, feathering Shepherd through to Hope behind the wicket.
George Dockrell, in at number seven, chipped in with 30 off 25 balls and number nine Mark Adair contributed an unbeaten 21 off nine balls, but the Irish tail didn’t offer much resistance otherwise.
Pollard will hope to keep the good results coming when they face the tourists again at the same venue on Tuesday morning.
West Indies: 269 all out (Shamarh Brooks 93, Kieron Pollard 69; Mark Adair 3/38, Craig Young 3/56)
Ireland: 245 all out (Andy Balbirnie 71, Harry Tector 53; Alzarri Joseph 3/55, Romario Shepherd 3/50).
Man-of-the-Match: Shamarh Brooks
Result: West Indies won by 28 runs
West Indies lead the three-match series 1-0