First T20, Malahide: South Africa 165-7 (A Markram 39, D Miller 28, M Adair 3-39, S Singh 2-19) beat Ireland 132-9 (H Tector 36, B McCarthy 30*, T Shamsi 4-27, L Ngidi 2-18) by 33 runs.
It’s been a long wait for Ireland’s return to T20 international action and for large parts of Monday’s game against South Africa in Malahide it was as if they hadn’t played the shortest format for 16 months.
In contrast, the Proteas had just won a best of five series win against West Indies and their in-tune bowlers knew too much for an Ireland side which, thanks to a last wicket stand of 44, comfortably the highest of the innings, got into three figures and reduced the victory margin to 33 runs.
Harry Tector, dropped on two, Andrew Balbirnie and Barry McCarthy, with a defiant late assault, were the only batsmen to reach double figures and the Ireland side will need every one of the next seven games this summer if they are to be ready to compete when the T20 World Cup gets under way in less than two months time.
Inevitably, Tabraiz Shamsi, the world’s No 1 T20 ranked bowler, was man of the match, taking four wickets for 27, including three in 11 balls which ripped out the heart of the Ireland middle order.
However, the main damage had been done even before he was introduced in the eighth over with Ireland losing both openers inside seven balls and George Dockrell, who surprisingly came in at No 4, and Balbirnie were both out before the six-over powerplay had been completed.
"We would have taken 165 at halfway, having put them in," admitted captain Balbirnie afterwards. "But having a powerplay like that you are really up against it. We didn't bat well enough to win the game so we have go away and come back on Thursday with a better game plan.
“We don’t have a lot of time to turn it round, but we will keep that positive approach and make sure the guys have the full backing of the group.”
The remaining two games in the series are at Stormont and one player who will be glad to see the back of Malahide is Paul Stirling. Ireland's best batsman hit the first ball of the innings from slow left armer George Linde - the one new face in the South Africa line-up from the ODI series - for six but missed with the sweep shot next ball and was bowled.
In four innings over the last nine days, Stirling has scored 57 runs and has now passed 50 only once in 16 attempts on the ground.
Kevin O’Brien can’t seem to get a run anywhere at the minute for Ireland, and he failed to survive his first legitimate delivery, popping a simple return catch to Kagiso Rabada and Ireland were seven for two.The writing was already on the wall.