Veteran opener Paul Stirling smashed an unbeaten 66 as Ireland advanced to the Twenty20 World Cup Super 12 on Friday, knocking out two-time champions West Indies.
Disciplined bowling limited the Caribbean team to 146-5, with Gareth Delany taking a career-best 3-16, before the Irish cruised to their target with 15 balls to spare in Hobart.
It means everything to me. “We had a disappointing loss at the same stage last year,” said Balbirnie.
“I couldn’t be prouder of myself after losing the first game and then coming back and beating a two-time champion in a must-win game.” The game ended on an emotional note.”
The West Indies won the tournament in 2012 and 2016, but they arrived in Australia with a new look after Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, and Kieron Pollard retired, and Andre Russell was overlooked.
They stumbled badly in their first match, losing by 42 runs to Scotland, before recovering to easily defeat Zimbabwe.
But Ireland, which is competing in their seventh World Cup and has only advanced past the first round once before, has hit rock bottom yet again.
“It’s difficult; we haven’t batted well in this tournament,” West Indies captain Nicholas Pooran said.
“This is a learning opportunity for us.” We have let both our fans and ourselves down. It is undeniably painful.”
On the job
The Irish bowlers sent down nine dot balls in their first 15 overs after the West Indies won the toss and batted at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval.
Kyle Mayers, frustrated, launched at a delivery from Barry McCarthy and was caught at mid-off for one.
Johnson, the perilous Charles slammed 4-4-6 off Curtis Campher, but his good fortune ran out in the next over, when he slicked to Campher off spinner Simi Singh for 24.
Brandon King was dropped two balls later and made the most of it, smashing four boundaries to help the West Indies reach 67-2 at the halfway mark.
Evin Lewis left the game after 13 pitches with a hamstring injury, ending a 44-run partnership.
Pooran (13) and Rovman Powell (6) did not last as King (62 not out) did his best to advance the scoreboard.
Ireland responded by blazing 54 off the first five overs, with eight boundaries, four of which were sixes, with Stirling and Balbirnie on a mission.
In the eighth over, Akeal Hosein’s spin gave the West Indies a breakthrough, with Balbirnie caught by Mayers after an entertaining 37 off 23 balls to end a decisive opening stand.
The run rate fell, but Stirling, playing his 177th international, kept going and reached his 21st T20 half-century with another boundary, which he shared with Lorcan Tucker (45 not out).