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Match Report
Ian Callender

Day 1

For a squad that was forced into the field barely 36 hours after arriving in Jamaica, the Ireland team can be proud of their efforts on the first day of the three-day game against the islanders at Chedwin Park. Only during a fifth wicket stand of 139 between West Indies batsman David Bernard, who scored a patient and well-constructed century, and Jamaica captain Tamar Lambert were Ireland under the cosh but even that partnership took 40 overs so the run rate was always under control and to dismiss the hosts for 339 before the close was a splendid effort.

In temperatures approaching 90 degrees at the 10am start and on a pitch which was as shiny as Phil Simmons' head, not to mention a lightning fast outfield, this was toss that every member of the touring party wanted their captain to win. But, William Porterfield called wrong and a day in the field was their punishment. Not that their heads ever dropped. Not even Peter Connell, despite his fourth over going for 16 and his ninth for 19, he kept coming back for more and was ultimately rewarded with four wickets although apart from a beauty to dismiss young Horace Millar, he got some help from the batsmen, although after conceding 77 runs in his 11.5 overs he had more than earned his reward.

Trent Johnston, who opened the bowling with Connell, had to wait until his second over with the second new ball to get into the wicket-taking column but more than once he was unlucky to have to wait so long. Of the other medium pacers, Kevin O'Brien, at first change, put in a 10-overs stint which proved only two less than Alex Cusack and Andre Botha added together. Cusack's eight, in two spells, went for only two an over but was one of only two bowlers who failed to take a wicket.

The other was Andrew White who, surprisingly, ended up bowling more overs than Gary Kidd while the other 12 were sent down, in a most encouraging fashion, by Paul Stirling. With George Dockrell left out of the starting line-up - along with Nigel Jones and, of course, John Mooney who finally joined up with the squad last night after his expensive lie-in - Stirling was actually the second spinner used and after a nervous start quickly found his line and length.

Two overs for 14 was transformed into 12 overs for 45 and two wickets including the one that ended the century partnership, Lambert playing on when he went back instead of forward for 68. Just for good measure Stirling added the wicket of wicket-keeper Carlton Baugh, to a catch at slip by Johnston, one of three smart ones for the vice-captain.

The best of the day was held by Gary Wilson, low to his left at mid-wicket to end the innings eight minutes before the official close but too late to force the Ireland openers to bat. That can wait until Sunday when it will be up to the batsmen to show the same resilience as their bowlers.

Two days to go and it is game on.

Day 2

Ireland's batsmen could not emulate their bowlers' fightback on day one as they folded to 275 for nine at the end of the second day of their three-day game in Jamaica. Paul Stirling, Niall O'Brien and Alex Cusack all scored 50s but no-one threatened the century which West Indian David Bernard compiled on Saturday and that seems set to be the difference between the sides' first innings.

Only Stirling could consider himself unlucky with his dismissal - stranded outside his crease when the bowler deflected Niall O'Brien's drive onto the stumps - and although Kevin O'Brien was beaten by a stunning throw from cover, why was he going for a quick single three balls before tea? Of the rest, William Porterfield set the pattern with a mistimed pull to mid-on - excusable later in his innings but not to the first ball of the second over. Maybe he already thought he was in Twenty20 mood, the main reason for this trip.

However, it will be next weekend before Ireland get their first chance to perfect their skills in the shortest form of the game in the Caribbean. This match and Wednesday's 50-overs hit, also against Jamaica, is all about getting used to the conditions they will become well accustomed to by the end of the month. Despite the proliferation of pace bowlers in these parts, spin is sure to play a major role and Ireland had to face 61 overs of it yesterday, out of 90, and four of the seven wickets to fall to bowlers were claimed by Akeem Dewar.

The tall leg spinner, on his first class debut, claimed the wickets of Niall O'Brien - but not before he became the ninth batsman to score 3,000 runs for Ireland - and the out of touch Andre Botha in 21 balls during an unchanged spell of 15 overs and, when he returned at the end of the day, added Alex Cusack and Andrew White to his tally. Cusack's innings was the bravest of the day as he stubbornly dug in despite never attaining any fluency. He could have been out to either of his first two scoring shots, survived a very confident leg before shout and a missed run-out, not the only one on a day of generally poor fielding by the Jamaicans. However, he hung in there for 124 balls - more than anyone else - and hit six boundaries, including one of four sixes in the day.

Paul Stirling, sent in first with Porterfield, was top scorer with 65 although he shared top billing in the batting with Niall O'Brien, happy to play second fiddle for most of the second wicket stand of 108 and Kevin O'Brien who looked more like his old self until his innings was cut short by that run-out.

Day 3

Ireland were saved from any potential embarrassment by Jamaica's failure to declare as the final day of their three-day game at Chedwin Park petered out into a draw. It could be the day, however, that Paul Stirling took on the role of second spinner, ahead of Gary Kidd, as the 19 year old, bowling for only the second time in an international, outbowled the Waringstown slow left armer.

Stirling was unlucky to get only one victim on a day when, apart from a spell when three wickets fell in eight balls, the batsmen again held the upper hand. The fact that Jamaica continued their innings after tea - when they were already 270 runs in front - showed what they thought of the pitch and William Porterfield showed what he thought of the home team's tactics by bringing himself onto bowl for the first time in his 96th match for Ireland. Both Porterfield and first choice wicket-keeper Niall O'Brien claimed their first wickets for Ireland - and only their secondin first class cricket - as Jamaica batted on and on although, more seriously, O'Brien, who had given up the gloves in the second innings to Gary Wilson, was only bowling to finish an over started by Stirling.

Attempting to take a return catch off Andre Russell, the ball not only crashed through Stirling's hands but bounced back some 20 yards off the sightscreen wall. Reports suggest the finger is not broken but as it is the index finger of his right hand he probably will not be able to bowl for the next week. However, it should not affect his batting and he has not been ruled out of playing in Wednesday's 50-over match against the same opposition. Once Jamaica had won the toss on Saturday morning, National Coach Phil Simmons predicted the home side would use the third innings as batting practice but he must have been disappointed by his bowlers' lack of penetration.

Where the Jamaicans were noticeably turning the ball on day two it proved painfully slow for Ireland's trio with Kidd, despite finishing with three wickets, doing himself few favours for his future prospects on the tour as he proved even more expensive than Peter Connell on day one. Yesterday, Connell again bowled better in his second spell but had to be taken off after four overs in his first, which cost 26 runs, without the Jamaicans going after the bowling.

But what should have been a day of meaningful cricket turned into a non-event with Russell helping himself to a facile century off 62 balls with seven fours and nine sixes, seven of them off Kidd who was left to bear the brunt at one end while Porterfield used his part-timers at the other. When Wilson became Ireland's 11th bowler, Andrew White, in a floppy sun-hat, was Ireland's third wicket-keeper of the match. It was that sort of day.

Russell added another six in his unbeaten 108 before Jamaica"s much-belated declaration brought the game to a merciful conclusion.

Photographs