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Match Report
Ian Callender

Ireland's batsmen finally came to the party but it still wasn't enough to get one over the West Indies XI in their Twenty20 clash at Sabina Park on Saturday. With Shivnarine Chanderpaul leading the way - he scored 64 from 47 balls - the Windies totalled 171 for seven, but a sparkling innings by Paul Stirling gave Ireland the perfect start to their reply and while Niall O'Brien was in the middle, Ireland remained on course for victory.

However, with 35 wanted from the last three overs, O'Brien was well caught by Ramnaresh Sarwan, going backwards at mid-wicket, and no-one was able to pick up the baton. The only boundary in those last 17 balls was off the penultimate one as Kevin O'Brien, John Mooney, Gary Wilson and Nigel Jones all drew a blank. The margin of defeat was 18 runs.

Stirling and William Porterfield took 22 off Sulieman Benn's first two overs as the West Indies chose to open the bowling again with their giant slow left armer but his return for the last two overs from the pavilion end rendered Ireland virtually strokeless. After dismissing Niall O'Brien with the first ball of his comeback spell, only three singles and a two came off the rest of the over and after two 'dot' balls in the last over, he had Wilson stumped by Denesh Ramdin and then, next ball, bamboozled Nigel Jones to leave himself on a hat-trick.

He spoilt that by sending his next delivery down leg side but by then the game was won. For 37 overs, though, this was the batsmen's day and Ireland had played their part, none more so than Stirling. After losing his captain at the start of the fifth over for 17 (from 15 balls with two fours) the 19 year old took centre stage with strokes to take the breath away and earn applause from the parochial home support.

Having already found the fence three times in his first six balls, he thumped big Benn for six, then welcomed first change Lionel Baker to the attack with two sumptuous extra cover drives, on the up. Baker did not return, unfortunately, and although Niall O'Brien hit Narsingh Deonarine for a straight six it was not so easy for the batsmen. Still, there was no need to panic after two "dot' balls followed the six but that's just what the batsmen did. When O'Brien hit it straight to Chanderpaul at short fine leg for the second successive ball there was no more chance of a single than there had been from the previous delivery but Stirling took off, desperate to keep the scoreboard moving, and was beaten by the direct hit.

Stirling with 33 from 19 balls had so much more to give but Alex Cusack has still to find the big-hitting form in the Caribbean that won him the player of the tournament award at the World Cup Qualifying tournament in February. Cusack could manage only nine singles off his first 15 balls and although he finally converted one into a two it was O'Brien who was shouldering the burden of finding the fence. Cusack finally drove back to Nikita Miller, a deserved wicket with his final ball for the other slow left armer in the West Indies line-up as he was one bowler none of the Ireland batsmen could master. He was hit for only 12 singles and a two in his four overs.

Ireland chose to go into the game without Trent Johnston, Andrew White and George Dockrell so Kevin O'Brien took the new ball and Gary Kidd was the second slow bowler to Stirling. O'Brien kept it to two singles in his first nine balls and Peter Connell conceded only two boundaries in his first three overs but three fours by Chanderpaul in Cusack's first over started the West Indies charge. Andre Botha continues to find it hard to bowl a "dot' ball and it was left to Stirling to check the runs. Only in his last over, when Wavell Hinds hit him to long on for a six and four off successive balls did he wilt but while Ireland still find it difficult to accelerate in the closing overs if they lose wickets, West Indies took 76 off the last seven overs - including 19 off the last - despite losing six wickets.

When Ireland can produce those sort of figures they really will be in a position to compete with the best. They have one more attempt to beat the West Indies before their World Twenty20 clash, when the teams meet again on Sunday 18 April, Ireland's final match in Jamaica.