By Ravi Madholall
After a staggering display in the second and penultimate one-day on Thursday at the Kensington Oval, Barbados, West Indies pulled off a dramatic one-wicket victory to claim the series and now have laid the foundation to also triumph with a whitewash for the first time after six years in their territory.
Their first match’s commanding five-wicket win resonated well but their opponents Ireland made them worked extremely hard for that memorable showdown as they huffed and puffed to 237 set by the Irishmen.
In 2014, West Indies whitewashed lowly rated Bangladesh but since then they have not been able to bring the ecstasy but the opportunity is just a solitary match away when more pulsating actions are expected to unfold on Sunday in Grenada.
In batting department, only Evin Lewis made a huge impression having struck a scintillating, unbeaten 99 to lead them to the win in the opener while his Trinidadian compatriot Nicholas Pooran carved out a half-century in the second game.
However, there are signs of encouragement from other senior and seasoned batsmen like skipper Kieron Pollard and Shai Hope but generally the batting badly lacks consistency as key batsman Shimron Hetmyer has failed terribly so far.
Expectations were high that the abundantly talented Guyanese left-handed stroke-maker would have churned out handsome performances because of his prolific run in India late last year.
Hope, who dominated with the bat in 2019, started off promisingly but failed to convert his 25 and 13 into good scores while Brandon King, a rookie, can’t find his rhythm as yet.
As much as the batting looks formidable before the commencement of the series and the enthusiasm expressed by Head-coach Phil Simmons that they are in good form and they would have progressed richly, Ireland bowled cleverly but just a matter of their batting didn’t really function effectively.
Simmons, and no doubt, their loyal fans were confident the bowling could have been outstanding as well. Fast-bowler Alzari Joseph has been tremendously excellent in those two encounters having headlined things with back-to-back four-wicket hauls. He delivered with great accuracy and precision and reaped good rewards. He only conceded 62 runs from 20 overs and bowled with good line and length as well especially in the Power-Play.
His seam partner Sheldon Cottrell also gave account of himself but on the second occasion Ireland batted more assiduously to score over 200 runs in comparison to the 180 they tallied up in the initial fixture.
West Indies have become too rely on the slow bowlers and leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr. and left-arm bowler Khary Pierre have been asked to take up the responsibility but their immaturity was clear not finding consistent line and length on those responsive pitches.
Ireland in the Caribbean also for three T20s with the first one is set to bowl off on Wednesday in Grenada as well. West Indies, who are the reigning World Cup T20 champions, will head into that series as hot favourites and predictably will be using the series as part of their preparations for the T20 World Cup event which is slated for Australia later this year.
But for now, their attention and focus is to whitewash Ireland who certainly are not motivated as the regional unit.