IT was a last over which captain Andrew Balbirnie will relive over and over again, just wondering how Ireland came up short.
It was only his second one-day international in charge but it seems incredible he could suffer another such agonising loss no matter how long the Dubliner is involved.
If West Indies’ last man Sheldon Cottrell had hit the first ball of Mark Adair’s over for six, then it would have been a case of so near so far but instead it was the fifth ball and Ireland threw away two chances to win the game from the previous two deliveries.
A fumble by Adair in gathering a throw from backward square and then a throw to the wrong end and more mishandling allowed West Indies to complete two singles and Ireland's chance of ending a sequence of 19 losses against the Big Eight had gone.
“It felt like the longest over I’d ever been involved in, said Balbirnie in the post-match press conference. “There’s a lot of distraught guys in there.
“I thought we did everything in the field with the ball we could to win the game but you have to hand it to their lower order the way they batted. But we had enough opportunities to win the game and to come away losing by a wicket is hugely disappointing.”
“I thought we were 20-30 short, on what was still a pretty good wicket. Stirlo and Purdy (Paul Stirling and William Porterfield) had set it up so well, then we lost wickets in clusters, but to get 237 on a used wicket we knew we were in the game if we bowled well up top and Barry (McCarthy) and Andy (McBrine) did that very well.
“Barry bowled outstandingly, one of his better spells for Ireland and he’s really running in. Simi (Singh) was brilliant again and Boyd (Rankin) in his bursts, it was such an impressive effort.”
But Balbirnie knows that when the opposition needs 90 with just three wickets left, even with 21 overs to go, they should finish them off.
But it proved a tale of two rain breaks. After the first, Ireland took three wickets for eight runs in 17 balls but the second break surrendered the momentum and allowed Windies' eighth wicket pair of Khary Pierre and Hayden Walsh to regroup and add another 43 runs.
That took the hosts through the psychological 200 barrier and when Joseph joined Walsh to add another 32 for the ninth wicket, a West Indies win looked a formality.
Adair, bowling the 48th over, had just been hit for two successive fours by Joseph, but the fourth ball was a slower one and the man of the match – for the second successive match the pace bowler had taken four wickets for 32 – pulled it straight to Paul Stirling at mid-wicket.
McBrine conceded just one run off the penultimate over but both batsmen survived to take everyone into the nerve-shredding 50th over. Cottrell held his and all that was missing at the end was his famous salute, which follows every wicket he takes. But that would have been even crueller on this Irish side.
Balbirnie, rightly, though, insisted “we played some decent cricket and we can take positives from that”, going into tomorrow’s final ODI in Grenada (1pm GMT).
Stirling passed 50 for the 32nd time in an Ireland shirt – and for the seventh time in his last eight ODIs – Singh put in his best all-round performance and both Kevin O’Brien and Porterfield, in his 300th Ireland game, both looked in good nick.
But in the end, the result is all that matters and Balbirnie was philosophical, despite not having a series decider to look forward to.
“It would be easy to say we ran West Indies close but we’re here to win series and unfortunately we didn’t do that. Our performances in the field and with the ball in the last two games have been good and if we could just get someone to push on with the bat, we can build a big score round, then I’m confident we can get a win.”