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Ian Callender

Ireland's cricketers lost to New Zealand by 32 runs in Nagpur today, but they pushed the Black Caps all the way, and at various stages of their reply looked like they could very well win the contest. New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori proved the difference between the teams, showing just why is the number one ranked bowler in one-day international cricket. Vettori took 4-42, claiming two wickets in two balls with his final two deliveries. Ireland lost four wickets for 22 runs in their batting powerplay, going from 218 for 4 to 240 for 8.

Chasing a mammoth 312 for the win, Ireland were given the perfect platform by openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling. The pair treated the 1500 crowd to a great display of controlled aggression, crashing the ball to all parts of the quite magnificent VCA stadium. Opening bowlers Kyle Mills and Hamish Bennett were treated with disdain by the two, with the boundaries coming at regular intervals. They had added 93 in just the 13th over when skipper Daniel Vettori trapped Stirling lbw for a typically belligerent 39 from just 33 balls. The knock included three huge sixes and two fours.

Skipper Porterfield continued to play in a positive manner and with Ed Joyce rotating the strike cleverly, Ireland continued to keep pace with the asking rate. Porterfield reached his half century from just 48 balls, (6 fours, 1 six), and New Zealand looked concerned as they rotated their bowlers in their search for success. Porterfield's innings of 72 was ended with the score on 130, when he attempted a pull off Bennett's first ball of his second spell, but miscued and James Franklin took a comfortable catch at mid on.

Niall O'Brien joined Ed Joyce, and the pair added 47 to take Ireland to a very strong 177 for 2 in the 31st over, before Joyce departed. The Sussex left hander had reached 41 from 53 deliveries, and had just started to accelerate the scoring when he edged Kyle Mills to Brendon McCullum. The athletic keeper taking a sharp chance behind the stumps. Joyce had been dropped by Daniel Vettori off Scott Styris on 35, but couldn't profit from his fortune. Trent Johnston (33) and Niall O'Brien (32) batted well, as seven of the Irish top eight reached double figures, in Ireland's spirited reply.

Johnston was the last man out, trapped by Mills who finished with figures of 3 for 52. Ireland's total of 279 will give them some confidence after recent fragile displays. The New Zealand innings of 311 for 6 was dominated by opener Martin Guptill who made a quite superb 130 from 134 balls. He looked in prime form from the first over bowled by Boyd Rankin, striking two fours as 14 came from it. Rankin came back well, removing Brendon McCullum's middle stump, to leave New Zealand 18 for 1.

Jesse Ryder, who made two appearances for Ireland back in 2007, was somewhat subdued in the early stages against his former colleagues, but had started to play with greater freedom, and reached 48 from 53 balls (5 fours, 1 six) when he drove Paul Stirling's first delivery to a grateful William Porterfield at short extra cover. Ross Taylor looked in ominous form, striking Paul Stirling for two huge sixes as he reached 33, before driving back into the midriff of a grateful Andre Botha. James Franklin joined Guptill, and the pair batted New Zealand into a very strong position, adding 104 in just 88 balls, to take the total to 248 for 4 in the 45th over.

Martin Guptill appeared to be run out by Trent Johnston on 105, but umpire Buddhi Pradhan disagreed - how Andre Botha wished he hadn't, as Guptill proceeded to hit 22 runs from the 46th over. His superb effort was ended when he holed out on the long off boundary to Boyd Rankin off the bowling of Trent Johnston, but there was no reprieve for the Irish as Scott Styris reached 29 off just 15 balls. He struck the last two balls of the innings for 12, which meant 63 had come from the last 34 balls of the innings, as New Zealand passed the psychological 300 barrier.

How vital those runs in the late overs were to prove in the final equation. For Ireland, there's a lot of positives to take from the game, with the batting, which had given such cause for concern in the defeats in Dubai, looking very strong indeed.

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