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Andy Balbirnie 'bitterly disappointed' as Ireland fall agonisingly short in 226 chase

Captain hopes his team keeps the aggression going in home summer packed with Full-Member assignments

Deivarayan Muthu
Andy Balbirnie: "It's not every day you get that close against a team like India"  •  Sportsfile/Getty Images

Andy Balbirnie: "It's not every day you get that close against a team like India"  •  Sportsfile/Getty Images

After a record 176-run stand between Deepak Hooda and Sanju Samson - the highest for any wicket for India in T20Is - propelled their side to 225, Ireland gave them an almighty scare, dragging the second T20I down to the last ball. Mark Adair, however, didn't connect well enough and managed just a single, as Ireland fell five short of a famous victory in Malahide.
Their captain Andy Balbirnie was proud of the effort from his players but said that the narrow margin of defeat was a "bitter pill to swallow".
"Yeah, we're all [feeling] pretty good," Balbirnie said at the post-match presentation. "It's not every day you get that close against a team like India. We did a lot of good stuff with the bat. We said at the halfway stage there's just one way we're going to chase: go out and be expressive.
"I think we did that but we're bitterly disappointed when you come so close. It was a great game of cricket for everyone here. The crowd has been amazing [in] the last two games, but it's certainly a bitter pill to swallow now."
In the opening game - a rain-hit 12-over shootout - Ireland fell behind in the powerplay, with both bat and ball. On Tuesday, the message from Balbirnie was to go hard with the bat in the early exchanges. Paul Stirling launched an audacious assault against Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the first over of the chase, cracking him for 6, 4 ,4, 4.
Balbirnie, becalmed until the third over, got into the act himself, when he flicked and swatted Bhuvneshwar for a four and six. Although Stirling was bowled by a signature wrong 'un by Ravi Bishnoi in the last over of the powerplay, Ireland racked up 73 - their third-highest powerplay score in T20Is. Such a start freed up the middle order even further.
"Certainly make use of the powerplay," Balbirnie said. "That's a bit of a no-brainer. I thought Paul did that brilliantly. He went after Bhuvi in the first over and set the tone. I obviously took a bit more time to get going and eventually did. The opening partnership set the tone for the rest of the guys to come in and express themselves. I think they did that pretty well all the way down."
"They played exceptional shots, and we were surprised. There's no doubt about the quality of the Irish batters, and that was on show today."
India seamer Harshal Patel on Ireland giving them a scare
Harry Tector followed up his unbeaten 64 off 33 balls in the first T20I with 39 off 28 balls in the second. George Dockrell, who has remodelled himself into a batter, and Adair also played their shots as Ireland shellacked 14 sixes - the most by them in a T20I innings. Balbirnie said that this is the batting template he wants the team to emulate during their home summer, which also includes visits by three other Full Members - New Zealand, South Africa and Afghanistan - in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup, which starts in October.
"I think at the moment it [the feeling] is disappointment, but at the same time we've gone toe-to-toe with a really good team [India]," Balbirnie said. "We've put up a very good score, which on any other day will be a potentially winning score, but we have to take that confidence.
"We play New Zealand next week in ODIs and T20s, and we have an exciting summer. We can't let this be a flash in the pan. We have to make sure we keep improving, going out with the same mindset in T20 cricket."
India seamer Harshal Patel, who was among the bowlers targeted, conceded that Ireland's attack caught the visitors by surprise.
"Yeah, we were comfortable [at halftime], and most of the times when you get 225, you defend it," Harshal said in a post-match interview. "But they came pretty close, played some really good shots. The wicket was an absolute belter, and the outfield was fast. But that's what we pride ourselves on; we held our nerve and finished the game.
"They played some exceptional shots, and we were sort of surprised by the way they batted today. There's no doubt about the quality of the Irish batters, and that was on show today."
Ireland will face New Zealand in the first of three ODIs at the same venue on July 10. It will be a reunion of sorts for Ireland coach Heinrich Malan, who was part of New Zealand and Auckland Aces' support staff before taking up the Ireland job.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo