Purposeful Ireland give Windies wake-up call

Ireland

Ireland provided another timely reminder of their credentials for ascension with a historic six-wicket victory over the West Indies in the first of two Twenty20 Internationals at Sabina Park on Wednesday.

Ireland provided another timely reminder of their credentials for ascension with a historic six-wicket victory over the West Indies in the first of two Twenty20 Internationals at Sabina Park on Wednesday.

Instigated by a typically disciplined bowling and fielding performance, the tourists recovered from a shaky start to chase down 117 for victory thanks largely to Ed Joyce's unbeaten 40.

The elegant left-hander, who only joined up with the squad on Friday after sitting out the Super50 campaign, put on a match-winning partnership of 58 with Andrew Poynter to give Ireland their first international win over the West Indies after the bowlers had earlier stifled the hosts.

By the time the fourth wicket partnership was broken in the 16th over, when Sunil Narine penetrated the defences of Poynter for a well-composed 32, Phil Simmons' side needed just 22.

Joyce proceeded to caress the ball into the gaps as the required rate dropped to a run-a-ball, allowing Kevin O'Brien – just like he did seven years ago during that famous victory over Pakistan at the same ground – to carry his side over the line with decisive boundaries in the 18th and penultimate over.

There was no buoyant celebrations when the all-rounder clipped Ravi Rampaul down to fine-leg for the winning runs, just a fist pump and acknowledgment that this was another landmark in Ireland's grand and ongoing development.

Their run chase started tentatively, however, as both openers fell in quick succession. William Porterfield's poor run of form continued as he was trapped in front by leg-spinner Samuel Badree in the first over before Paul Stirling swatted Rampaul straight to Andre Russell on the midwicket fence for zero.

Gary Wilson joined Joyce and the pair ensured no further damage was done in the powerplay with a watchful stand of 29. The hosts began to turn the screw and Wilson was bowled attempting to clear the rope by Badree, who collected two for 18 off his four overs on a slow surface.

Joyce remained defiant and along with Poynter, began to knock off the runs by clearing the rope at crucial junctures. The latter, playing in just his fifth T20 International, scored six of Ireland's fourteen boundaries on his way to a career-best 32. He couldn't see the job through but that only allowed O'Brien to take centre stage once again.

For the West Indies, the current World Twenty20 holders, this was a fifth successive reversal in the shortest-format and raised more questions than answers after being caught cold by purposeful but lower ranked opposition.

Not even the return of captain Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels or Chris Gayle could inspire them after a string of abject performances in New Zealand. Having won the toss, Sammy elected to bat first and it seemed a justified decision when Gayle and the recalled Dwayne Smith made a solid start.

Smith, playing in his first Twenty20 International since December 2012, launched Stirling over long-on for a maximum in the first over and repeated the feat in the off-spinner's next over. That was as good as it got for the 30-year-old on his return, however, as he picked out the fielder in the deep for 14. His opening partner, Gayle, followed suit shortly after, lofting straight to George Dockrell off the medium pace of Alex Cusack for a muted 18.

Regular wickets ensured the hosts couldn't gather any momentum as Ireland's slower bowlers found a consistent line and length to great effect. Samuels epitomised their struggles as he walked past a quicker one fromDockrell while Lendl Simmons gave Cusack his second. The big names came and went as they stumbled up to 116 for eight. It wasn't to be enough.

The two sides meet again on Friday in the second T20 International before facing each other in an ODI on Sunday, at the same ground.

<b>Ryan Bailey</b>

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