Paul Stirling's blazing 95 and a wonderful last over bowled by Joshua Little helped Ireland upset two-time defending champions West Indies by four runs in an epic high-scoring contest in Grenada on Wednesday. This was Ireland's second Twenty20 win against the West Indies and it comes at a time when teams are preparing full tilt for the World T20 which will be held in October. Having lost the second ODI in a tense manner, Ireland were determined to win something on the ongoing tour of West Indies. They almost lost the contest when West Indies hammered 27 runs in the 18th over.
But two great overs ensured Ireland would not suffer a repeat of the heartbreak they suffered in Barbados. Ireland chose to bat and the start they got from the powerplay laid the foundation of Ireland's dominance. Stirling got off the mark with a boundary off Sheldon Cottrell but in the second over, he opened up with a four and a six over deep midwicket. Kevin O'Brien joined Stirling and blasted Cottrell for four and a six. In the fourth over bowled by Kesrick Williams, both Stirling and O'Brien launched sixes to get the partnership past 50.
Dwayne Bravo, making a comeback into the West Indies team after three years, had a rough start when he was clobbered for two sixes and a four by Stirling. In the sixth over, Stirling notched up his fifty off 20 balls and he blasted two sixes and two fours in the over bowled by Kharry Pierre as Ireland finished with 93/0 after six overs, which was the highest powerplay score in the history of Twenty20 Internationals. O'Brien neared his fifty with two fours off Williams while Stirling just kept sixes at will by launching Hayden Walsh over deep midwicket. Both openers smashed a boundary off Kieron Pollard and Stirling neared his century with a six off Walsh.
However, Bravo broke the 154-run opening stand when he removed O'Brien with a yorker for 48. Stirling missed out on a chance for a century when he miscued a slog sweep to be caught by Walsh for 95. West Indies staged a fightback when Pierre took the wickets of Harry Tector and Andrew Balbirnie in the same over. Gary Wilson tried to get momentum going with two fours off Sheldon Cottrell and Gareth Delany made Williams pay by smashing two sixes and a four in the 18th over which yielded 20 runs. Bravo dismissed Delany with yet another yorker and conceded just four runs in the 19th over while Cottrell ended the innings in style with two wickets as Ireland ended on 208/7.
West Indies got going immediately with Evin Lewis smashing a four and a six off Barry McCarthy while Lendl Simmons matched Lewis' aggression with two fours and a six of offspinner Simi Singh. Little, though struck in his first over when Simmons mistimed the lofted drive and George Dockrell took a stunning catch at deep extra cover diving to his right. Lewis, though, was in fine form as he blasted three fours in Craig Young's over. West Indies ended the powerplay on 63/1 but in the eight over bowled by Dockrell, there was carnage. Lewis notched up a fifty off just 24 balls with a six while Shimron Hetmyer showed his class with two sixes.
Joshua Little held his nerve in the final over and got the wicket of Dwayne Bravo to seal Ireland's win. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Just when West Indies had the momentum, Young got the big wicket of Lewis for 53 when Harry Tector took another good catch at deep extra cover. With West Indies scoring at 10 runs per over, the stage was set for Pollard and Bravo to wreck havoc. Hetmyer continued to clear the short boundaries at Grenada but in the quest for aggression, he holed out to Balbirnie off Dockrell. Pollard smashed Simi Singh for a six and a four and he launched Dockrell for two consecutive sixes but the right-hander, though, fell to Simi Singh as he miscued a lofted shot to long on. Sherfane Rutherford hit a six and Dockrell conceded just two runs in the 17th over.
West Indies, though, were not done. McCarthy bore the brunt as Rutherford smashed two sixes while Pooran hammered a six and two fours as 27 runs came in the 18th over. With 16 needed off 12 balls, West Indies were the favorites but Young took the wicket of Pooran and conceded just three runs as West Indies needed 13 off the final over. Little dismissed Sherfane Rutherford first ball but Bravo blasted a six to boil the equation down to 7 off 4 balls. Ireland missed a run-out of Walsh as West Indies needed five runs off three balls. After a dot ball, Bravo miscued a slog and was caught at deep midwicket. Walsh failed to clear the fence and Ireland had won a thriller.