Four days ago, Ireland were uncertain about whether they could put together a full XI to complete the CG Insurance One-Day International series against the West Indies owing to five Covid-19 cases and two injuries.
Today, the Irish did far better than just show up as they downed their hosts by five wickets at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica, to level the series at 1-1. And there will be everything to play for on Sunday when the West Indies and Ireland square off again from 10:30am (9:30am Jamaica time).
West Indies managed 229 all out from 48 overs. Ireland, facing a revised target due to rain and the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern formula, got the required total of 168 for the loss of five wickets with 28 balls to spare.
In truth, the scoreboard flattered the Maroon Men, who were batting at a glacial rate well short of four runs an over until their tail stepped up.
The opening partnership of Shai Hope and Justin Greaves put 38 runs on the board before Hope was caught behind by stand-in wicketkeeper Neil Rock off Craig Young for 17 off the last ball of the 10th over.
Young took a wicket in each of his next two overs to reduce the hosts to 43 for 3 before Shamarh Brooks, hero of the first ODI, strode to the middle. Brooks had scored 93 on the weekend and he was again the most productive batsman in the WI’s top order today.
However, WI had only mustered 111 for 7 when Brooks was trapped lbw by George Dockrell in the 34th over. This time, Brooks’ contribution was 43 ( 64b, 5 x 4).
Akeal Hosein and Romario Shepherd, batting at number nine, combined for 32 off 37 balls before the former was caught off the bowling of opposing spinner, Andy McBrine, for 11—with West Indies at 143 for 8 and looking set for an anaemic score of about 180.
But Odean Smith did not read the Irish script. Arguably, Smith did not even know what match he was in.
The burly bowling allrounder sported a massive smile from the moment he came to the crease and, even if he does not know what pressure is, he sure caused some for his opponents.
For context, Chris Gayle has the fastest ever half-century by a West Indies batsman after managing to get to the mark off 19 balls against England in 2019. Today, Smith had 46 off his first 18 balls (2 x 4, 5 x 6).
He might have tied Gayle’s record if the big swing he essayed at the wide delivery pacer Josh Little served up with the first ball of the 45th over had caught the ball flush. It did not and he was well caught low down by Curtis Campher running in off the point boundary .
West Indies were then 201 for 9, with Shepherd having contributed just seven runs to their 58-run partnership from 27 deliveries.
Shepherd went on to reach his maiden ODI half-century off 41 balls with a cheeky reverse sweep before being bowled by McBrine.
More than half of West Indies’ final total of 229 came from the tail and extras (30).
Ireland were without captain Andrew Balbirnie who had top-scored with 71 off 94 balls on Saturday but subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 . His place went to another hardened veteran, Paul Stirling, who missed the first ODI owing to the novel coronavirus.
And the tourists just got on with the business of overhauling their target, building successive steady partnerships.
West Indies captain Kieron Pollard looked like thunder when Shepherd ran around on the square-leg boundary and failed to catcha Campher, on 10. But Ireland, already on 147 for 3 and scoring at well above the required rate, needed just 82 from 132 balls at that stage.
West Indies never got to see the Irish tail today. The tourists were 157 for 4 when the rain came, with 22-year-old Harry Tector on an even 50 from 71 balls—his second half-century of the series.
Ireland needed to score at 3.91 runs per over at that point and were motoring along at 5.01. After the rain interrupted play, the revised DLS target arguably merely put WI out of their misery sooner, as Ireland pulled off only their second ODI win against the Maroon Men in the 14th meeting of the two nations.
Number three McBrine, who took 4/36 with the ball and scored 35 off 45 balls, was adjudged the Man-of- the-Match.
In Sunday’s decider, it is anybody’s match.
West Indies: 229 all out (Romario Shepherd 50, Odean Smith 46, Shamarh Brooks 43; Andy McBrine 4/36, Craig Young 3/42);
Ireland: 168 for 5 (Harry Tector 54*, Andy McBrine 35; Akeal Hosein 2/51, Romario Shepherd 1/12).
Man-of-the-Match: Andy McBrine
Result: Ireland won by 5 wkts (with 21 balls left—DLS method)
Three-match series tied at 1-1.