With both teams having lost their first game in the tournament, this was a must-win encounter. But while Ireland will feel understandably aggrieved at the manner of their elimination, they will also reflect that they produced two under-par displays with the bat and that, had the rain that started to fall heavily straight after their innings stayed away, West Indies would have been strong favourites to overhaul a target of 130 in 19 overs. They qualified through virtue of a superior run-rate to Ireland.
The unsatisfactory manner of Ireland’s exit will do nothing to improve the reputation of this event, though. Staging such a high-profile tournament during the monsoon season in Sri Lanka was always likely to prove a high-risk strategy and there was something almost inevitable about rain ruining one of the few games in the event so far where the result actually mattered. Tellingly, spectators once again stayed away from this game in their droves.
The result also underlined the importance of winning the toss in this World T20. With the limitations of the Duckworth-Lewis method becoming increasingly apparent in this format, the opportunity to bat second and benefit from D/L is an obvious advantage. Had the rain relented, West Indies could have been set a target of just 44 in five overs with all of their wickets intact.
Ireland will reflect, however, that they never really found much fluency with the bat. William Porterfield, for the second game in succession, was dismissed by the first ball of the match. Perhaps anticipating a repeat of the bouncer that he hooked down the throat of fine leg against Australia, Porterfield was this time beaten by a fine, inswinging yorker from Fidel Edwards.
Perhaps the rain that interrupted their innings after only five overs was also crucial. Before the delay, Ireland were well placed at 33 for 1, with Ed Joyce having guided his first ball to third man and inside edged another boundary later in the over and Paul Stirling looking increasingly fluent. While Ravi Rampaul’s first over cost just two, Stirling top-edged a pull to the boundary off Edwards and then greeted Darren Sammy’s introduction into the attack in the fifth over by giving himself a little room and crashing a pair of fours through the covers.
Sunil Narine came into the attack after a rain delay of about an hour, with the game reduced to 19 over per side. He soon showed the value of his spin bowling, beating Joyce’s outside edge with his first two deliveries and then bowling him as the batsmen attempted a sweep with his third. At the end of the power-play, Ireland were 35 for 2.
Sammy dismissed Stirling, top-edging an attempted pull, in the seventh over, and almost has Gary Wilson in similar fashion later in the same over. On this occasion, however, Wilson gloved the ball over the keeper’s head and capitalised by sweeping Narine for one boundary and cover driving Russell for another. The introduction of Chris Gayle accounted for Wilson, though, when he edged an arm-ball to the keeper to leave on 70 for 4 in the 12th over.
A partnership of 26 between Kevin and Niall O’Brien gave the Ireland innings some impetus. Niall pulled one six off Andre Russell, while Kevin drove another off Edwards, but when Gayle beat Niall O’Brien with a quicker ball and Kevin O’Brien, in moving across his stumps to glance, was bowled by a yorker, Ireland’s last recognised batsmen had gone.
Narine, perhaps unsettled by Nigel Jones carting him for six over long-on, donated a free-hit to the Irish cause by over-stepping in the penultimate over and Trent Johnston thrashed one six over long-on off Gayle, but their total of 129 for 6 was still likely to prove some way short of par.
West Indies had made two changes to their side for the game. Russell came in for Dwayne Bravo, who had a groin strain, while Darren Bravo replaced Dwayne Smith.
Ireland were without Boyd Rankin. He had not recovered from the illness that has swept through the Irish camp in recent days, so Max Sorensen was drafted into the side in his place. It means that Rankin, who a few weeks ago announced his decision to retire from international cricket with Ireland in order to concentrate on playing Test cricket for England, has probably played his last match for the country of his birth.