The Ireland versus West Indies clash was a classic case of raw talent overpowering single-minded determination and dedication. For 35 overs, Ireland bowlers kept the West Indies batsmen on a tight leash and frustrated them with some incise bowling combined with exceptional fielding. But, one counter punch by the big-hitting Kieron Pollard and an anchoring ton by Devon Smith enabled them to rise above the ordinary and quash the Irish challenge.
Pollard’s clean hitting has always been a big talking point in the 20-over version. However, he has not quite translated that potential into performance at the one-day level. On a manic Friday, when tsunami and quake swept away Japan, Pollard destroyed Ireland’s resilience en route to a wonderful exhibition of power hitting. For a change, Pollard did not go after the bowling right from the word go, which has often been his undoing in the past. On the contrary, he bided his time and got his eye in. However, once he went on the attack, there was no looking back. Eight fours and five sixes in his 55-ball knock stood testimony to the brutality of the knock. Until Pollard came to the crease, Ireland were in command. This was because even though Devon Smith was holding up one end, the pressure wasn’t building on the Irish bowlers. It was only once Pollard and Smith joined forces that the tide turned for the Windies.
Pollard was exceptional in the manner in which he went after the Irish bowlers. His clean hitting augurs well for the future games for West Indies. However, Pollard needs to repeat such performances against bigger teams so that he doesn’t get branded as a minnow basher. Ditto for Devon Smith. He has been around for quite a while now, but has performed with the consistency that has been expected of him. This century should give Smith tons of confidence for the future games. What Smith needs to do now is to take the game to another level else he will remain a mediocre player. Chris Gayle has been looking out for an opening partner for a long while now and hopefully he would have found one in Smith finally.
Once Smith and Pollard put West Indies on top, their bowlers must have been confident of defending the total. Ireland did not get off to the greatest of starts, losing Paul Stirling and skipper William Porterfield very early on in the piece. However, a stabilizing partnership between Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien and then Joyce and Gary Wilson kept Ireland in the hunt. It was an excellent, mature innings by the experienced Joyce, who was due for a big score given his hi-profile stature in the team. And, he did not disappoint this time round. Joyce held his nerve and went about rebuilding the innings sensibly in the company of Wilson, the latter playing the aggressor to perfection. Till the time Joyce and Wilson were at the crease, Ireland looked in command despite the fact that they were behind the run-rate.
The ploy by Ireland was obviously to keep wickets in hand and hope Kevin O’Brien comes good once again. Unfortunately for Ireland, Joyce and Wilson fell just when Ireland were about to kick-off to bigger things and O’Brien too couldn’t repeat his heroics. The dismissal of Wilson was bizarre, with the URDS once again coming into question. The umpire Asoka De Silva had given him out lbw and did not change his decision even after the big-screen replay showed that the ball had pitched outside the off stump. Certainly, the UDRS isn’t serving its purpose and only creating unnecessary controversies. Having said that, the Windies bowlers also need to be credited for the way they came back to break the partnership and maintain the pressure thereafter to clinch the game.
Sulieman Benn and skipper Darren Sammy were especially impressive with the ball. Both kept things extremely tight and were suitably rewarded with plenty of wickets. No doubt, it was an impressive performance overall by West Indies. But one can’t but feel bad for Ireland, who gave it their everything, but were undone by one special knock by a man named Pollard.
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