In more ways than one did one get to see just how better Ireland played versus the West Indies in a do or die from the 2022 T20 World Cup. For starters, Ireland in their accomplished run-chase lost the first wicket not before the 45th delivery of their inning; the Windies had lost theirs on just the sixteenth delivery.
The West Indies openers, quite expectedly, failed to get going consuming one dot ball too many whilst Ireland’s openers were right on the money.
Not that this was a quarter final and definitely not the contest that could be called the ultimate clash of the tournament.
Yet, the Blundstone Arena-bound game was a slugfest between two contrasting destinities. On the one hand, there was a side that carried the tempo (of victory) from its previous game, one in which it had humbled a familiar rival: Scotland perhaps unexpectedly so.
On the other hand there stood a side, which, as it later turned out, seemed a spent force in T20 international cricket.
And truth be told, it wouldn’t require one to possess the penetrating glare of a hawk to establish just what areas did Ireland better the West Indies.
To begin with, Ireland were the hungrier side of the two; it seemed evident for instance in the way Paul Stirling batted and in the way the spinners harangued the Windies batters that the green shirts wanted the win badly.
The West Indies cricket team maybe not so much!
In a sport where one of the golden rules of success has been told so often that any further mention of it now seems a dull cliche, Ireland did exactly what the Windies failed to: they took the catches instead of dropping them.
Brandon King’s dropped catch during the Irish reply should serve a case in point.
So punishing did Ireland seem of their Caribbean counterparts that when the talented Odean Smith took an absolutely safe return catch of Tucker of his own bowling albeit of a no-ball, it seemed, Balbernie’s side relished victimising the Windies.
Of course, that wasn’t true; the only thing, however, that was, was the fact that regardless of what the Windies did or didn’t do, Ireland batted with an intent, the clear differentiator between the two sides.
So harrowing were Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbernie in their treatment of Windies bowling that their cross batted hitting and gap finding was akin to a one-sided brutal assault in which a horse was being whipped.
Of course, what added insult to injury for West Indies was that both Irish batters Paul Stirling and Andy Balbernie (the captain) had entered the game at the back of ordinary runs.
Belfast-born Paul Stirling’s previous two scores read 0 and 8 against Zimbabwe and Scotland, whilst the right-handed Irish captain had made only 14 and 3 against Zimbabwe and Scotland, respectively.
What was interesting, of course, to Ireland but maybe bitter for the Caribbean fan was that when the Windies bowlers should’ve experimented or tried to do things a little differently, they bowled either flat or a touch too full.
For instance, with the (always) gettable 147 left to a target of well under 15 runs, the stroke that Paul Stirling played towards the leg-side boundary spoke of a man of intellect and intent.
The big man didn’t muscle the white-ball; he merely whipped it. None of the thinking custodians of West Indian fast bowling- whether Alzarri Joseph or Odean Smith bowled to a plan.
Meanwhile, Obed McCoy, such an intelligent bowler otherwise and one also touted as the next big talent from the West Indies, had, yet again an ordinary day out in the field.
Much like how the Irish line up had a clarity in the way they went about chasing what could’ve been an added strength for the Windies- but wasn’t- was the missing plan in place.
Were there any overs, in particular, where the Windies would’ve liked to practice convertasim, say against spin whilst going after Mark Adair and the likes? Did they even play spin well, which continues to be the key reason of their downfall?
While much of Ireland’s joy de vivre is down to their well controlled bowling with the spin department producing the goods, Delany, for instance, took three for sixteen, Windies bowlers didn’t go for early wickets but one boundary too many.
Regardless, while questions will haunt coach Simmons, whose only real response in the aftermath has been that “Windies didn’t show up,” here’s a truth bomb that really showed up for Ireland:
While much of our focus will understandably rest with Ireland’s courageous T20 World Cup win, efforts should be made to recollect what Ireland did in the Caribbean earlier this year.
Lest it is forgotten, earlier in 2022, a Kieron Pollard-led ODI side in the West Indies lost a series to Ireland in a massive first for the visitors. It was a side that had Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Shamarh Brooks, Jason Holder, Odean Smith and Alzarri Joseph.
That was then and this is now.
Does any of it makes sense? Maybe to Ireland as it must, maybe not to the cricket-obsessed West Indies.