Rohit, Dhawan set it up for wristspinners in huge win
India 208 for 5 (Rohit 97, Dhawan 74, Chase 4-35) beat Ireland 132 for 9 (Shannon 61, Kuldeep 4-21, Chahal 3-38) by 76 runs
India's opening batsmen, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, set off a rollicking start to their tour. Their 160-run stand, the second-highest for India in T20Is, provided momentum enough to last the rest of the game in a 76-run win at Malahide. In response to India's 208 for 5, the hosts couldn't even trump the pair's effort, succumbing to India's wristspinners through the middle overs.
As is often the case when the two open together, it was Dhawan who first took on the bowling. Having been the benefactor of the first of at least six dropped chances across both innings, Dhawan was ruthless. Never was this more evident than in the sixth over when, after stepping out and copping a bouncer in the grille, Dhawan completed the over by stepping out again creaming a length ball out of the ground, straight over the bowler's head.
Rohit began edgily, before joining his partner in feasting on the length balls fed by the seamers, hardly any of which were faster than 130kph. Their preferred method was to loft over the infield, a tactic provided for nicely by a flat, insipid surface. Ireland used four seamers in the Powerplay with no success, before some respite through George Dockrell's first over immediately after. But when Rohit skipped down the track to launch offspinner Simi Singh high over deep midwicket for his first six, there would be no further control.
It wasn't a complete batsman-dominated innings. There were chances. They found Stuart Thompson, in particular, many times. By the time he finally held onto one - his fourth chance - to get Dhawan, India had made 160 in 16 overs.
Suresh Raina, who along with Manish Pandey, was a surprise pick ahead of Dinesh Karthik, was promoted to No. 3 and had a brisk five-ball innings for 10 before falling to the first short ball bowled at him. With Rohit approaching a third T20I hundred at one end, India went for complete aggression at the other with, first MS Dhoni and then Hardik Pandya being pushed above Virat Kohli.
But Peter Chase bowled a freak final over, managing to get Rohit - for 97 - Dhoni and Kohli, in the space of four balls to put one final, extremely belated dent to the innings.
Malahide's 9400 spectators were witness to an immediate display of aggression from Paul Stirling, who stepped out and got squared by a Bhuvneshwar Kumar outswinger first ball. That single down to third man would be his only run. With his next display of aggression, he only managed to chip one to mid-on.
India dropped James Shannon thrice within the first four overs, none of them patently tough ones. The reprieves allowed a struggling batsman to find his feet against a good nagging pace attack, before he started picking out the leg side at will with predominantly front-foot hoicks. Normally a middle-order batsman, pushed up on the day for the dropped William Poterfield, Shannon found his best in the middle overs.
Three of his best shots came against Chahal, each one muscled to completion against balls that were turning away from him, landing either side and far behind deep midwicket. But when he attempted the same against Kuldeep, he was promptly caught in front with a front-of-the-palm yorker.
With that, the wheels came off. Neither the in-form Simi at No. 4, nor the experienced Kevin O'Brien at No. 6 got into the chase and with their tame dismissals against Kuldeep and Chahal, respectively, any hopes of Ireland coming close were dashed. And with Wilson running past a Chahal legbreak immediately after O'Brien had fallen, Ireland were all but done at 96 for 6.
Kuldeep capped off the embarrassment, lulling the lower order batsmen forward with dipping, fizzing deliveries which they scarcely had an idea about. In doing this he slipped in a maiden, before tonking the off stump of Stuart Poynter as he wicketkeeper looked to flick one from leg stump. That was his fourth wicket, and at 4 for 21, he had the best figures in his exciting young T20I career.
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo