WEST Indies wrapped up a 3-0 series whitewash of Ireland, led to their target by another ruthless display of batting from Evin Lewis, to confirm the strides made under Phil Simmons’ guidance in his second spell as coach.
This was West Indies’ second 3-0 win in a matter of months, victory over Afghanistan by the same score on neutral ground in India ending a five-year series drought in ODIs; success against Ireland was their first at home since beating Bangladesh back in 2014.
Set a modest target on a pitch that had begun to play increasingly true after a damp start in Grenada had encouraged Kieron Pollard to bowl first, West Indies cruised to victory with more than 10 overs to spare, after a third rain delay had cut their requirement to 197 from 47.
As well as the performance of Lewis, who recorded his third ODI ton, there were career-best figures for legspinner Hayden Walsh and an impressive showing from young quick Oshane Thomas for Pollard to savour.
Having come so close to an upset in the second ODI, which was decided by one wicket with one ball remaining in Barbados on Thursday, Ireland could not rouse themselves to the same levels after a short trip across to the Windward Islands. Andy Balbirnie led from the front with 71, but he found little support throughout the innings and a total of 203 looked some way under par on a ground that saw an aggregate of 807 runs scored in the last ODI played here.
Ireland needed early wickets, and athough they managed two during the initial Powerplay, Lewis quickly located the groove that saw him finish on 99 not out in the first match of the series, having narrowly failed to win the game with the six needed for his hundred. This time he was in no mood to fall short. Three times he cleared the ropes early on, to go along with several crisp fours, as West Indies reached 58 for 2 after 10 overs, Lewis having scored 46 of them.
Barry McCarthy struck in his third over, pinning Shai Hope lbw — Lewis’ apparent support for the wasted review perhaps his only bad decision – and Simi Singh had Sunil Ambris caught behind trying to cut for another single-figure score, but Ireland’s bowlers had been left with too much to do.
Brandon King stroked three of his first nine balls to the boundary and looked in formidable touch, helping Lewis add 75 in just 13.3 overs. With King showing flashes of the CPL form that led to his debut late last year, Lewis was happy to tick over, adding 12 singles from 25 balls before tucking into McCarthy again – a period of 6-dot-4-6 dispelling any notion that the opener was becalmed.
And while King edged a cut against Andy McBrine in the following over, Lewis and Nicholas Pooran guided the chase either side of the showers.
Lewis brought up three figures in an ODI for the first time since 2017 from his 96th delivery, pulling Craig Young for four with nine runs needed, but fell to the next ball as he tried to finish the match.
Romario Shepherd was promoted up the order, only to hole out off McBrine, before Pooran’s fierce pull sealed the result. A sign of West Indies’ strength, albeit against the No. 11-ranked side in ODIs, came in the changes made for this game.
Shimron Hetmyer was left out after making two single-figures scores in Barbados (but only five innings since smashing 137 from 106 against India in Chennai), though Ambris could not take advantage of the chance at No. 3; Sheldon Cottrell, West Indies’ most-successful bowler over the last 12 months, was also rested, allowing a run out for the towering Thomas.
It was Thomas, 22 years old and capable of bowling 145kph, who undermined Ireland’s attempts to battle through against the new ball. He removed the openers, Paul Stirling and James McCollum, with both discomforted by his pace and splice-jarring lengths.
Stirling started with twos from his first two balls but could only manage one more run from his next 21, before edging a skittish pull behind, while McCollum played tidily enough for 20 but was snagged by Lewis in the covers after driving without getting forward. Balbirnie held the innings together with his ninth ODI half-century, but Ireland struggled to build partnerships and his dismissal in the 38th over left them without a recognised batsmen going into the death.
Walsh’s initial spell had seen him take 1 for 25 from five overs, but he switched ends and produced figures of 5-0-11-3, which included the wicket of Balbirnie, caught slicing to point, just when Ireland were looking to kick on. Only some impish hitting from McBrine, whose 22-ball 25 from No. 9 was Ireland’s second top score, got them above 200.
Two rain delays did not overly help Ireland’s cause, with Roston Chase striking twice during an unbroken spell — although a brace of slog-swept sixes from Balbirnie dented his final analysis.
William Porterfield was pinned lbw in Chase’s second over, struck low on the front pad trying to sweep, and although Kevin O’Brien drove his first and fourth balls crisply for four, a similar lofted shot saw him pick out deep extra cover.
A deceptively flighted googly was the undoing of Lorcan Tucker, as Walsh found his range and some turn to beat the inside edge, the ball shivering off-stump with just enough force to dislodge the bail.
That left Ireland on Nelson with half the team back in the dressing room, and although they hopped along gamely, they didn’t have a leg to stand on by the end.
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For many years the West Indies team ruled the cricket world, playing undefeated in a Test series for over 15 years. Recently the West Indies team has suffered several losses but with the emergence of new high-calibre players the future for the West Indies cricket team looks very good!
West Indians are passionate about their cricket, quick to cheer when the team performs well but also quick to criticize a poor performance. Thousands of West Indians always turn out to watch their team play .... and hopefully win!
Cricket is seen as a unifying force in the West Indies, bringing together players (and supporters) from across the region. This gentleman's game has brought considerable exposure to the islands of the Caribbean, with the West Indian cricketers being remembered not only for their incredible talent and skills but also for their deportment and sense of fair play.