Ireland 'no fear' approach pays off
Ireland coach Phil Simmons has never seen his team play better and believes the aggressive mindset, which appeared to take the beleaguered opposition by surprise, will become their trademark
The hangovers will not quite have matched Kingston or Bangalore, but Ireland's players ensured they savoured their victory over West Indies in Nelson. The coach Phil Simmons has never seen his team play better and believes the aggressive mindset, which appeared to take the beleaguered opposition by surprise, will become their trademark.
Ireland had 25 balls to spare as they chased down 304 - only a late flurry of wickets preventing the margin being even more convincing - and there was never a moment in the innings when they were losing control.
"It's the best I've seen so far and it augurs well for the future," Simmons said. "It helps that we've had a stable top six, that makes a big difference. It's just the first game, but all-round, in the field and the way we batted is the way we want to play cricket - in a positive way. It excited me the way we played."
The stand-out individual scores belonged to Paul Stirling, whose 92 was his first fifty-plus score in ODIs since May 2013 - 12 innings previous - followed by Ed Joyce's supremely fluent 84 and an equally commanding, unbeaten 79 from Niall O'Brien.
However, Simmons was also keen to highlight the early impact of captain William Porterfield, who pulled two early boundaries off Kemar Roach to reinforce that Ireland would not be tentative in the chase, after having been plundered for 167 in their final 15 overs with the ball.
"They played four fast bowlers, thinking we wouldn't be able to cope with the speed, and in the first couple of overs two short balls are pulled for [boundaries]," Simmons said. "It changes the way the team sees it. All of the top four played well. We played the fool a little at the end, but it's great."
Niall O'Brien, who was central to the continuation of the high octane approach after Stirling fell just short of what would have been Ireland's first ODI hundred since Porterfield against England in September 2013, said the warm-up matches, which produced mixed results, had taught Ireland that too much caution would not get them anywhere.
"I thought we were a little timid in the warm-up games, perhaps a little careful, and it's something we spoke about, playing with no fear and going for our shots. When you go through your shots 100%, more often or not they come off. We know we will need big scores during this tournament."
Ireland now have eight more days until their next match, against UAE in Brisbane, and that will bring a new set of challenges. It is a venue they have never played at and it is not a ground conducive to the spin-heavy attack Ireland shrewdly employed against West Indies.
They will need to consider if they can find room for another seamer - Alex Cusack, Craig Young and Peter Chase are the options for Simmons and Porterfield to ponder. The first match reinforced the seam department is a weaker suit: the 24 overs of John Mooney, Max Sorensen and Kevin O'Brien cost 194, the 26 overs from the spinners 109.
However, although conditions may not favour them, Andy McBrine will be difficult to leave out after his ten-over spell cost just 26, and George Dockrell remains the premier spinner after bagging three wickets.
"UAE is a team we know a lot about. We don't know much about the Gabba pitch but we'll be right on the money," O'Brien said.
This is not the time for massive celebrations. Ireland's aspirations for the tournament stretch much further.
Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo