West Indies 242 for 9 (Pooran 52, Walsh 46*, Pollard 40, Singh 3-48) beat Ireland 237 for 9 (Stirling 63, Joseph 4-32) by one wicket
Barry McCarthy's veins are popping.
The ball is maybe 50 feet in the air. Nobody cares where it ends up. All the Ireland players rush the man in the middle of the pitch screaming into the still night. This was the moment. The moment that they won the game. Or well, it should have been.
Kieron Pollard was gone. The last specialist batsman was gone. Replays showed him entering the dressing room quietly, but just as he was slipping out of the camera's range, his visage broke and the overwhelming disappointment made him stomp his foot.
The fans in Bridgetown were left praying for a miracle and Hayden Walsh decided he'd provide one. Walking in at No. 9, with the target still 90 runs away, he revived a lost cause, then repelled the inherent pressure of it. He defended well. He drove magnificently. He called loud and clear for his runs. He even protected his partner from the strike. West Indies rose from 148 for 7 to 200 for 7. They were only 38 away. There was tons of time still left in the game. And at least one more twist.
In the 39th over, Khary Pierre nicked the offspin of Andy McBrine to first slip. What brave captaincy from Andy Balbirnie. What sweet joy for his team. Only…
Walsh was still there. Rising up to short balls. Blocking out the yorkers. Always scoring runs. Except the final ones. He got stuck. He only made six runs off his last 20 balls and in that time there were two chances for Ireland to kill the game.
A run-out with the batsman nowhere near the crease, but the ball seemed to slip out of Mark Adair's hands as he tried to break the stumps. The third umpire Ruchira Palliyaguruge checked it for five minutes (maybe more) before saying there was no "conclusive evidence" to rule it out. The very next delivery, Adair had both batsmen within handshaking distance at the bowler's end, but he fumbled again and another run-out opportunity went begging. Immediately afterwards, Sheldon Cottrell belted a six and one of the best games of one-day cricket was done.
Ireland had actually defended their total of 237 exceptionally well. They made Evin Lewis succumb to dot-ball pressure. They capitalised on Shimron Hetmyer's reckless tendencies. They proved simply too good for Brandon King. They had West Indies at 24 for 3. Key to that start was there were no wasted deliveries, but then there came a flood, from Gareth Delany's, who was hit clean out of the park.
For that brief period, it seemed normal service had resumed. Nicholas Pooran was once again rising up to the occasion, batting with the great skill that makes people watching the game wonder which team was actually on top. And Pollard… Well, he was making those silly cricket balls just disappear.
A straight six had so much power that it cleared the Worrell Walcott and Weeks stand right behind the bowler. It seemed portentous, like Ireland's grip was slipping, which was further reinforced by the fact they had exposed a 22 year-old part-time legspinner who had never ever bowled in an ODI to the whims of one of the biggest six-hitters in the world. Poor Delany. Six of his 12 deliveries went to or over the boundary. Pollard and Pooran conjured up 64 runs in only 45 balls and suddenly West Indies were in control. And then they weren't.
Nobody knew why. Really, the only thing that changed was the weather. Two balls after a teeny tiny itty bitty rain break, Pooran was bowled by wicked offbreak from Simi Singh. In the next over, Pollard was undone by a little extra bounce. Meanwhile, a set of players who never stopped believing in themselves - even when they were made to watch cricket balls fly out of the ground - got their just rewards.
Ireland would have sensed victory then. They'd certainly prepared for it. There was logic in the decisions they made, like batting first, which was the only thing to do on a pitch that had already been used for the first ODI. Backing the same XI that couldn't get past 200 seemed risky but most of the batsmen had starts in that game. Balbirnie might perhaps have thought one of them might be able to convert it in this one.
The openers set up in that way. Paul Stirling was careful throughout his half-century all the way through to the point when he yelled out in disappointment after dragging the ball onto his stumps. He chose not to attack West Indies' strike bowlers - Alzarri Joseph and Cottrell - unless they dragged the length short. The pull was a highly productive shot, and the only sign of his power. It seemed like he was on instruction to bat through the innings and pick his targets - a job he was doing quite well, especially against the left-arm spin of Pierre which he took for two fours and a six.
But it wouldn't last. Joseph came back for his second spell and a well-directed short ball, giving the right-hander no room for a glide down to third man crashed into the stumps. Stirling was heard on the stump mic yelling the word "no" while the West Indies players rounded on their young fast bowler who once again showed he can construct 10 beautiful overs together (not to mention a killer lofted drive; he hit two of them to bring the equation down from 15 off 18 to 6 off 15)
Joseph began this game with a wicket, a refreshingly pitched up ball in the ninth over that went right through Balbirnie's defense and made a very lasting impression on his stumps. His game plan was simple. Go full and give the ball a chance to move while it was new, and it did. Overcome the old ball by banging it into the pitch and turning it into a weapon. He did that too.
None of the Irish batsmen were able to pick up his bouncers. Lorcan Tucker offered a leading edge to gully for 1 and Kevin O'Brien top-edged a pull to long leg on 31. Both batsmen had just successfully used DRS to give themselves a second life. Two balls later, they threw it away. At 154 for 6, it seemed Ireland might just fade away again but Singh marshalled to tail well to carry them through to the 50 overs and a total that gave them a gambler's chance and they very nearly hit the jackpot.