Ireland land historic series win after McBrine and Tector heroics

First series win against a Test nation comes after another famous day in Sabina park

Ireland have secured notable scalps on plenty of occasions before, but this one feels altogether different.

England and South Africa have been felled in one-off 50 over games in the last 18 months, but after defeating the West Indies by two wickets at Sabina Park on Sunday, Ireland have claimed their first bilateral ODI series victory since 2019 by a margin of 2-1.

What’s more, this is the country’s first ever overseas series scalp of a Test nation.

After the end to 2021 that this Irish side endured, defeats to Namibia and the USA in T20 cricket, Covid-caused chaos, a failed relaxed bubble in America and a long list of strict ones elsewhere, winning in Jamaica by overturning a 1-0 deficit is a significant turnaround - even if 50-over cricket does suit the group better at this moment in time.

To do so while missing the likes of skipper Andrew Balbirnie, the in-form Lorcan Tucker and one of their front-line spinners Simi Singh on a spin-friendly pitch - to name but a few Covid absentees - makes the victory all the more impressive.

Certain caveats probably should momentarily be applied. Playing a rebuilding West Indies on a slow deck is the best time for a side like Ireland to get them. As their captain Kieron Pollard admitted after the game, Caribbean cricket does not look to be in good shape at the moment:

“It’s a sad day for us and for West Indies cricket overall. As players we take responsibility and I take responsibilty on the field as leader for the performances. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but if you look at the latter part of 2021, we have a batting problem in the Caribbean. In all honesty we have not been up to standard. I might get in trouble for what I say but that is the honest fact.”

The toss has also been crucial throughout the series. Everyone and his dog knows that the wicket has flattened out throughout the day’s play in each game, giving a significant advantage to whoever batted second - one that stand-in Ireland skipper Paul Stirling rated as “more than a 55:45 split” before Sunday’s clash. The Irish captain - be it Balbirnie or Stirling - won all three tosses in this series.

Still, Ireland had to go out and put in the performances to win.

That they did on Sunday, despite Shai Hope’s fast start after once again being asked to bat first in bowler-friendly conditions. His 53 off 39 balls included nine fours and one maximum and would have been a worrying sign for an Irish side that had been economical in the powerplay up until now.

The fightback was led by Andy McBrine - named player of the series - and Craig Young who returned figures of 4-28 and 3-43 respectively. McBrine snared the crucial wickets of Nicholas Pooran, Shamarh Brooks and Kieron Pollard, the latter caught well at leg slip by William Porterfield. It was the second consecutive game McBrine dismissed the West Indies captain.

George Dockrell and Curtis Campher also chipped in with wickets as the Irish death bowlers prevented the usual West Indian counterpunch at the end of the innings.

In reply, William Porterield was dismissed on the first ball of the chase as he carved a short one to third man. Eternal optimists among fans of Irish cricket would recall how he suffered the same fate during Ireland’s famous win over England in the 2011 World Cup. Ireland went on to win that game, so perhaps the omens were good.

That they were as McBrine combined well with Stirling. The latter perished on 44 - but not before carving Akeal Hosein through extra cover for what was arguably the shot of the day. McBrine then partnered with Harry Tector, with both men notching half-centuries. Tector's was his third on the bounce, a remarkable effort that would have made it easy to give him the player of the series award were it not for McBrine's efforts with both bat and ball.

Tector now has seven 50s in ten ODIs, while McBrine’s promotion to number three, initially caused by Covid absences, may last longer given the display of his credentials here. If it does become a permanent move, the fact he is left-handed would bring welcome balance to a top order that tends to be right-hand dominant.

Despite the respective milestones, Hosein and fellow spinner Roston Chase caused a mini-panic when taking three quick wickets for just 18 runs. Ireland managed to survive as Mark Adair and Craig Young steered the chase home with two wickets remaining.

Stand-in captain Stirling was full of praise for McBrine and Tector after the game, but also spared a thought for his isolating boss Balbirnie:

“We don’t come on away trips and turn over sides like the West Indies every day.

“(Tector’s) consistency in ODI cricket is outstanding. He has as much potential as you can get, for him it’s a case of how much he wants it and he does want it. He doesn’t throw it away very often. Having someone in the middle order scoring loads of runs like that allows everyone else to play their own game when you know that consistency is coming.

“(McBrine) epitomises what an Irish cricketer should be. It’s not easy to get hit on the head (McBrine was concussed in the first game of the series) and win us the game. His bowling has been magnificent - it took care of itself. It showed that doing the basics very well is good enough at this level. To then go and do the hard yards and bat three for us, that’s exactly what we need as a unit.

“Balbirnie is absolutely loving life back in the hotel. We’ll sing a song with him on FaceTime, we’re a tight unit. I can’t wait to get him and his runs back though.”

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