Attention switches to T20 as Ireland revel in famous West Indies win

McBrine and Tector have put their hands up for places after inspiring 2-1 series victory

Ireland claimed a historic first series win over the West Indies. Photograph: Cricket West Indies

Ireland claimed a historic first series win over the West Indies. Photograph: Cricket West Indies

 

What a difference a few months makes. Ireland have gone from being knocked out of the T20 World Cup by Namibia and losing to the USA on their pre-Christmas tour to securing their first ever away series win against a Test nation, beating the West Indies 2-1.

The history of Sunday’s two wicket win at Sabina Park is clearly significant, but the more tangible effect on the World Cup Super League table is also worth mentioning. While it remains to be seen how many wins will be need against Bangladesh and New Zealand this summer, Ireland appear to be more in control of their 50-over World Cup qualification destiny after the week’s events in Jamaica.

The West Indies are clearly struggling at the minute. Yet Ireland have also had their aforementioned struggles but still found a winning formula; bowl first on a pitch that consistently flattened out, restrict their hosts to manageable totals and give their batters the required time to construct a chase.

The game plan was predictable, but not all of the protagonists were. Andy McBrine was not supposed to be batting as high as three in this series. The Covid-enforced absences of Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie thrust him into a position he has filled many times for the North West Warriors. Clearly captain and coach backed him, but the result of 128 runs across the three matches at an average of 64 must have been better than expected. There could have been more had a blow to the helmet in the first match not forced him to retire hurt with a ‘concussive episode.’

Throw in McBrine’s 10 wickets at an average of 11.6 and the player of the series award was a formality. Asked to take more responsibility as Ireland’s frontline spinner with Simi Singh out with Covid, McBrine thrived by keeping his bowling plans simple and even managed to continue his remarkable success rate against right handers.

Andy McBrine showed a willingness to attack the West Indian spinners despite conditions that suited them. Photograph: Cricket West Indies
Andy McBrine showed a willingness to attack the West Indian spinners despite conditions that suited them. Photograph: Cricket West Indies

Were it not for McBrine, Harry Tector would have been Ireland’s player of the series after notching three consecutive half-centuries. He now averages 58.5 in his last 10 ODIs. After being dropped from the T20 squad, he has done all he can to push for a recall ahead of next February’s qualifiers for the next iteration of the T20 World Cup.

That is the next priority for this Irish side. Can they take their admittedly more settled ODI form into the shorter format? For all the success in the Caribbean, the pending Covid returnees plus the success of those who replaced them means that Ireland still don’t know their best T20 side.

Gareth Delany’s power was earmarked to move up to number three, but Covid means he has not played a T20 international since the World Cup. Lorcan Tucker scored back-to-back 50s in his stead in America, but missed out in the Caribbean as another Covid absentee.

Shorter format

It’s now also tough to look past McBrine and Tector ahead of the shift to the shorter format - especially given the former’s ability to attack the West Indian spinners, not to mention the useful left-handed balance he would offer to a right-hand dominant line-up.

What of the middle order? Power can be an issue and in the one game last week where Ireland needed late boundary-hitters, they lost. Did George Dockrell’s efforts in vain then give him brownie points?

Harry Tector and Andy McBrine were Ireland’s standout performers in the 2-1 series win. Photograph: Cricket West Indies
Harry Tector and Andy McBrine were Ireland’s standout performers in the 2-1 series win. Photograph: Cricket West Indies

There is talk of playing T20s before the qualifiers in order to find a balanced side. Whether this comes through or not, Paul Stirling believes that the skills from the West Indies games are transferable: “Playing a side like the West Indies you know they hit sixes. Teams around the world have 90mph bowlers and spinners who can move it both ways to counteract that, we don’t so we have to be smart.

“We’ve got to be so bang on and clear with what we have to do. Playing the West indies in the West Indies does feel a bit T20ish when it gets to the back end.”

Inevitably, the focus of elite sport shifts rapidly to the next challenge. Even with all the new questions surrounding the side ahead of the T20 qualifiers, you would hope the Irish players have time to toast their historic Caribbean win

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