Veteran Dwayne Bravo’s return following a three-and-a-half year sojourn on the sidelines ended in disappointment as a feisty Ireland stunned West Indies by four runs in the opening Twenty20 International yesterday to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
The 36-year-old all-rounder was one of two wickets to fall in a dramatic final over bowled by 20-year-old left-arm slow medium Josh Little as West Indies, chasing a demanding target of 209, failed to gather the 13 runs required off the last six balls of the contest at the Grenada National Stadium.
Left-hander Sherfane Rutherford, who struck 26 off 13 balls, holed out to long on off the first ball in search of his fourth six but Bravo then clobbered the next delivery over the ropes at wide long on to reduce the target to seven runs from four balls.
A couple down the ground off the third ball meant the Windies were in the driver’s seat, needing five runs from three balls, but Bravo turned down a leg bye off the fourth ball before picking out Gareth Delany in the deep on the leg side.
With five needed from the final delivery of the game, Hayden Walsh Jr missed a desperate swing, leaving the Irish to celebrate their first win of the tour.
Left-handed opener Evin Lewis top-scored with 53 from 29 balls while captain Kieron Pollard got 31 from 15, Shimron Hetmyer, 28, and Nicholas Pooran, 26.
Ireland snatched wickets at key moments especially through Little, who bowled brilliantly to finish with three for 29, and seamer Craig Young who claimed two for 31 from an excellent four-over spell.
West Indies had earlier found themselves virtually paralysed by Paul Stirling’s brutal career-best 95 from 47 balls as Ireland stormed to 208 for seven off their 20 overs after choosing to bat first.
The veteran right-hander bludgeoned six fours and eight sixes—mostly straight hits—and shared a whirlwind first wicket stand of 154 with Kevin O’Brien whose 48 came from 32 deliveries and included four fours and two sixes.
Both gladly indulged in the feast prepared by undisciplined West Indies bowlers, plundering a record 93 runs in the first power-play to be 130 without loss at the halfway stage.
Bravo, whose first over leaked 18 runs, finally got the breakthrough when he hit O’Brien’s off-stump with a deceptive yorker in the 13th over.
He conceded just 18 runs from his last three overs to finish with two for 28.
Stirling was eyeing a maiden hundred when he holed out to Lewis at deep mid-wicket off leg-spinner Walsh in the following over and quickly, Ireland had lost both their set batsmen.
Left-arm pacer Sheldon Cottrell (2-37) and left-arm spinner Khary Pierre (2-45) then put the shackles on the heavy scoring and it was left to Delany’s 12-ball 19 and 15 extras – including 10 wides – to get Ireland past 200.
Needing to score at nearly 10-½ runs per over, West Indies were well ahead of the required rate thanks to Lendl Simmons who pummeled three fours and a six in a 14-ball 22, as he added 37 off 21 balls for the first wicket with Lewis.
When Simmons sliced Young to cover in the fourth over, Lewis and Hetmyer added 56 for the second wicket.
Lewis stroked six fours and three sixes before lofting Young to be taken on the cover boundary by Harry Tector.
Hetmyer followed 12 balls later but Pooran added 36 for the fourth wicket with Pollard and 44 for the fifth with Rutherford, to keep West Indies in the chase.
However, the momentum swung Ireland’s way when off-spinner Simi Singh removed Pollard to a catch in the deep in the 15th over before Little struck the key blow, having Pooran caught at backward square in the penultimate over.