Ireland’s cricketers fail to shine

Ireland’s cricketers fail to shine

The Irish eleven face reality despite historic win over Bangladesh

The Irish Post’s MALHAR HATHI reports

Ireland may have lost the T20I series to hosts Bangladesh 2-1 but at the end of it, Paul Stirling walked away as the first Irish captain to win a game of cricket in the country.

The seven-wicket win in the third T20I in Chattogram was also Ireland’s first over the hosts since 2009.

Having failed to get early wickets and stem the flow of runs in the first two T20Is, Ireland’s bowlers finally stepped up after a high-scoring ODI series and deservedly had a win to show for their efforts.

Stirling stood in for regular captain Andrew Balbirnie, who was being rested for the Tests against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

As far as the first two rain-affected T20Is were concerned, not a lot seemed to have changed as Ireland’s woes from the ODIs continued. Bangladesh’s quick fire opening stands and the wrath of their seamers ensured they took an unassailable 2-0 lead.

Having been inserted to bat first in the series opener, Bangladesh romped to 207-5 in 19.2 overs before rain caused a two-hour delay. The final total was swelled by Tony Talukdar’s maiden T20I fifty, a quick fire 38-ball 67, in a first-wicket partnership of 91 in just 42 balls with Litton Das, who chipped in with a 23-ball 47.

On a flat pitch, only seamer Graham Hume and spinners Harry Tector and Gareth Delany returned a bowling economy in single digits as Craig Young finished with two wickets albeit expensive (2-45).

Set a revised target of 104 in eight overs, Ireland flew off the blocks with Stirling and Ross Adair swiping away 32 off the first two overs. Despite 13 fours in total, a lack of sixes and losing regular wickets meant Ireland were always behind the eight-ball as they eventually fell short by 22 runs. Delany top-scored with an unbeaten 14-ball 21 but Taskin Ahmed’s triple-wicket fourth over killed the chase.

Chattogram was a far cry from Sylhet’s bouncy wickets and Stirling was visibly disappointed not to have capitalised on a flat pitch. “I actually think we got the better of the conditions and it got easier to bat. Disappointing to lose, with the conditions in our favour,” he said after the game.

Any hopes of the visitors putting in an improved show in the second T20I were extinguished as Bangladesh went one better than their own efforts by hammering 202-3 in 17 overs and restricting the Irish to a paltry 125-9.

Talukdar (44) and Das (83) continued their good form with a 124-run stand, with the latter bringing up the fastest T20I fifty by a Bangladeshi batter, before Shakib Al Hasan (38*) and Towhid Hridoy (24) plundered 61 runs in 4.5 overs.

If Ireland’s bowling looked listless, barring leg-spinner Ben White’s 2-28, the batters left a lot to be desired.

Al Hasan was the chief tormentor as the visitors were reduced to 43-6 at the end of the powerplay on the back of his second T20I five-wicket haul. In the process, Al Hasan also overtook New Zealand’s Tim Southee to become the format’s highest wicket-taker with 136 scalps.

Curtis Campher’s 30-ball 50 saved Ireland’s blushes and averted the ignominy of being bowled for under 100 but could not avoid a 77-run loss.

In a dramatic turnaround for the third T20I, Stirling led from the front with an innovative 41-ball 77 on the back of a comprehensive bowling performance to thump the hosts in a historic seven-wicket win with six overs to spare.

Bangladesh collapsed to 41-4 in the powerplay and slid to 61-7 courtesy Lisburn’s debutant left-arm spinner Matthew Humphreys, who became the first Irish bowler to take a wicket off his first ball and two balls later had another.

Mark Adair led the attack with three wickets as all the seven bowlers used on the day chipped in with a wicket each to bowl out Bangladesh for 124 with four balls unused.

“T20 cricket is so up and down, it’s about creating and taking chances and if you can miss the middle of the bat, great,” Adair said at his post-match press conference. “For example, Litton Das hit one straight to deep point today, the same ball in the first two games went for six.”

At 41-2, it felt like Bangladesh could claw their way back but Stirling ensured no further let-ups and was at his innovative best ramping and scooping fast bowlers at will. In all, he struck ten fours and four sixes before Campher iced the chase with a six over deep fine leg.

“We have been a little slow off the blocks,” Stirling admitted after the game. “My knock comes from how the bowlers set up the game for us. We improve when we play more and they deserve all the credit to come back from what we have been through the last few weeks.”

Adair, too, was realistic despite a historic win: “We want to win games of cricket no matter how hard it may be or how difficult the conditions may be. We won the final game and that’s great but it doesn’t change the fact that we had a pretty disappointing ODI series and a disappointing start to the T20I series.

“For us right now, it’s about how you go about things in the subcontinent and how we can continue to get better, provided we can get better every time we play and that’s all we can ask.”