Saturday, March 2, 2024

One-two punch


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MOHALI – Devon Smith stroked his maiden One-Day International (ODI) century, but it was Kieron Pollard’s devastating 94 that helped smother Ireland and keep West Indies on course for the quarter-finals of the World Cup yesterday.
Opener Smith gathered a patient 107 while Pollard unleashed a trademark whirlwind innings to lift West Indies to 275 all out after they were sent in at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.
Ireland looked set to make a fight of the Group B contest at 177 for three in the 38th over, but aggressive left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn snatched four for 53 and captain Darren Sammy snared three for 31 with his medium pace to ease the Windies tension and hand them a comfortable 44-run triumph.
The win was their third on the trot and it moved them to second in the group on six points, one behind leaders India.
Despite Smith’s century, the West Indies batsmen found themselves shackled for long periods by disciplined Irish bowling, and Pollard’s fireworks were welcomed gladly.
Smith and Shiv Chanderpaul (35), opening in place of Chris Gayle who was forced out of the final XI with an abdominal strain, could only add a painstaking 89 from 146 balls for the first wicket.
Both batsmen found difficulty in scoring as seamers Boyd Rankin and Alex Cusack strangled them with stingy spells. Such was the trickle of runs that the first 50 came off 90 balls, with the second requiring a further 70.
It was perhaps a blessing in disguise when Chanderpaul, who faced 63 balls and hit three fours, chipped pacer Kevin O’Brien (four for 71) to captain William Porterfield at short cover in the 25th over.
Three balls later without a run added, the stylish Darren Bravo was bowled essaying an expansive drive and when Ramnaresh Sarwan holed out to long off off left-arm spinner George Dockrell to end a19-ball dither over 10, the Windies were in need of inspiration at 130 for three in the 32nd over.
They found it in the form of an 88-run, fourth-wicket stand off 63 balls between Smith and Pollard, as the Windies hauled themselves back into the contest.
In a tale of two innings, Smith stroked 11 fours and one six off 133 balls in a patient knock, while Pollard was anything but guarded, blasting eight fours and five sixes off a mere 55 balls in a spectacular display of power-hitting.
He started timidly, needing 13 balls for his first seven runs before exploding, flicking Kevin O’Brien over midwicket for six and swatting him over long on for another off the final ball of the over.
With Pollard in full flight, the Windies gathered a frenetic 69 from six overs as they climbed beyond 200 in the 41st over.
When Smith missed a flick to leg and was bowled by Kevin O’Brien in the 43rd over, it was left for Pollard to carry the fight and he did so admirably, even as the last seven wickets tumbled for 57 runs.
As his maiden ODI century beckoned, he picked out Rankin in the deep off medium pacer John Mooney at the start of the penultimate over, to fall agonisingly short of three figures.
Ireland made a steady start but Benn struck twice to leave them on 86 for three after 21 overs. Ed Joyce (84) and Gary Wilson (61) caused the Windies some worry by adding 91 for the fourth wicket.
Debutant pacer Andre Russell ended the Irish resistance when he yorked Joyce at 177 in the 38th over, and Pollard’s brilliant diving catch running in from long off to dismiss the dangerous Kevin O’Brien, put the Windies in command. (CMC)


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