By Ravi Madholall
Buoyant West Indies in an advantageous position to win a limited-over series against Ireland in the second and penultimate game on Thursday at the Kensington Oval, Barbados.
After trouncing the tourists by five wickets in the opener on Monday at the same facility, West Indies last one-day series triumph materialised way back in 2014 having whitewashed Bangladesh, 3-0.
Optimism of making this a reality would have sparked alluding to the fact they had displayed terrific all-round cricket during the first match while their recent tour of India where they put in some valiant efforts despite losing the series, 1-2.
In the confrontation against the lowly-ranked Ireland (11), West Indies (09) produced a fine bowling effort led by 23-year-old right-arm fast-bowler Alzari Joseph who snared four wickets for 30 runs from ten efficient overs.
He was admirably supported by left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell, who gave his usual and exaggerated salutes at the two dismissals while rookie leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr. also delivered well to pick up two wickets conceding 30 runs in his ten-over spell.
Ireland won the toss and decided to bat first but lost momentum in their batting on a regular basis and eventually folded for an inadequate 180.
West Indies of course predictably chased down the target with consummate ease despite one and two fusses. The innings however, got the impetus from the belligerent opener Evin Lewis, who agonizingly missed out on a landmark but exquisitely reaching an unbeaten 99.
Ireland could still head into the match with some confidence after their bowling showed a great amount of consistency backed up nicely with few quick wickets while the batting demonstrated a solid level of promise even though at one stage they were floundering at 86-6.
Certainly, they will contemplate the move to modify the batting as well and add more strength in the bowling area.
Their seasoned batsmen like Paul Stirling, the veteran William Porterfield, Kevin O’Brien and skipper Andy Balbirne might give a good account of themselves on this occasion as they face the possibility of series loss on their first series against West Indies in the Caribbean after gaining one-day status 13 years ago.
West Indies’ batting has been powerful over the past few months noticeably owing to some brilliant performances in their preceding one-day assignments with Afghanistan and India, chronologically in India.
Lewis, who has been in stupendous form, no doubt is inspired to make another great impression on the same surface while his opening partner and the reliable Barbadian Shai Hope most likely anxious to cash in against the less-fancied Ireland in familiar conditions.
Adding to the experience of Lewis and Hope, two young batting talents Shimron Hetmyer and Nicolas Pooran can be destructive as well while inspirational skipper Kieron Pollard is globally known for his aggression, when it comes to hitting the whiteball.
Again the bowling will revolve around Joseph, the dynamic Cottrell, medium-pacer Keemo Paul while Walsh Jr. and his spin partner Roston Chase can be impressive in this interest contest.
Meanwhile, Ireland are also in the Caribbean for a three-match T20 series which is slated commence soon after the completion of the 50-over segment. Third one-day is fixed Sunday in Grenada.