Chasing 188 to win, a James Shannon inspired Ireland were on the brink of glory, before falling just four agonising runs short.
Shannon scored his fourth consecutive half century on the trip, making a quite magnificent 83 from 108 balls. That knock included 8 boundaries, before he was yorked by Jomel Warrican with the first ball of the last over with five needed. The last pair of Eddie Richardson and Craig Young could only manage a further single before a mix up saw Young run out, and the West Indies had gotten off the hook.
The pivotal moment proved to the run out of Stuart Poynter by Evin Lewis for 17. That started the rot, as both Shane Getkate and George Dockrell were trapped on the crease by Warrican without scoring.
The Irish innings had gotten off to the most frantic of starts, with two wickets in the first two overs, Lee Nelson falling lbw to Keon Joseph and yesterday’s centurion Andrew Balbirnie cutting a Gordon long hop straight to Blackwood at point.
Paul Stirling played as if the game were a Twenty20 fixture, playing some glorious drives in his 17 from 17 balls, before attempting one big shot too many, and skied the ball to a gleeful Worrican at mid on.
His dismissal left Ireland floundering on 33 for 3, but a 87 run stand for the fourth wicket between Shannon and Ben Ackland (32) put Ireland right on top. Ackland played the anchor role as Shannon scored all around the ground, with some lovely cuts and drives, looking by far the classiest batsman on either side.
Ackland was trapped lbw, one of four given against the Irish on a track which displayed variable bounce.
In the West Indies innings, a disciplined Irish bowling performance had them in all sorts of trouble at 112 for 6, before a combination of some lusty hitting, and missed opportunities let them reach 187 for 9 in a contest reduced to 42 overs by overnight rain.
Shane Getkate (1-14) impressed in his opening five over spell, taking the wicket of Kraigg Braithwaite for 0, and perhaps should have had another, as Evin Lewis survived the most confident of shouts first ball, before going on to make what would prove a crucial 32. He fell to one of the most wonderful pieces of fielding likely to be witnessed in the competition, as George Dockrell leapt to take the ball above his head, realised that his momentum was taking him over the ropes, released the ball, before springing back into play and completing the catch.
Paul Stirling was the bowler to benefit, and he impressed having figures of 3 for 29 in his 10 over spell. George Dockrell (2-21), Andy Balbirnie (1-25), and Lee Nelson (1-44) were the other successful bowlers.
Shane Dowrich (37) top scored for the Windies, while the other scorers of note were Trevor Griffiths (34), and Jermaine Blackwood (32). The innings of Blackwood was one of the most decisive, as he struck two sixes and two fours from just 22 balls, giving the innings late momentum.
Irish coach Matt Dwyer was obviously disappointed by the missed chance of a test scalp; “We were on top for 95% of the game but ended up losing which is hard to take. I thought James Shannon batted absolutely superbly, and he and Ben Ackland put us in the winning position, playing proper cricket and being focused. We didn’t get off to the best of starts, but recovered well. Our bowling was good and disciplined, and the intensity was there in our fielding, before a few lapses late on. We’ll put this behind us, and go into our first Group game with South Africa on Friday in a positive frame of mind.”
The loss was particularly severe on James Shannon, who was clearly distraught at the completion of the game – he can be cheered by the fact that on this form it won’t be too long before he is elevated into the senior ranks.
In Christchurch, Ireland 183 (41.3 overs) (J Shannon 83, B Ackland 32, J Worrican 3-33) lost to West Indies 187-9 (42 overs) ( S Dowrich 37, T Griffiths 34, J Blackwood 32, E Lewis 32, P Stirling 3-29, G Dockrell 2-21) by four runs.