Ireland's admirable fighting spirit and the test for WI Under-19s
West Indies all-rounderOdean Smith plays the ball tothe on side during the secondOne-Day International againstIreland at Sabina Park onThursday. Ireland won by fivewickets. (Photo: CWI Media)

Far from home and hamstrung by COVID-19 infections, Ireland may have been expected by some to simply get their restructured white-ball cricket fixtures at Sabina Park against hosts West Indies out of the way, without worrying too much about results.

But the Irish proved yet again on Thursday that they are determined fighters, beating their higher-ranked hosts by five wickets under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method to level their three-match One-Day International (ODI) series at 1-1.

This defeat was a rude awakening for Mr Kieron Pollard's West Indies team which won a topsy-turvy opening game by 24 runs last weekend.

“We need to take stock. There are no amount of words and excuses you can use to come and try and perform on the international stage,” said a clearly annoyed Mr Pollard.

Of course, cricket watchers won't be too surprised at Thursday's result. To begin with, the West Indies are by no means awash with confidence after a string of inconsistent-to-poor results in all formats of the game.

Additionally, Ireland have a history of creating upsets. Caribbean fans have reason to remember the International Cricket Council's (ICC) 2015 ODI World Cup when Ireland — guided by current West Indies Coach Mr Phil Simmons — reached 307-6 to beat a strong West Indies team by four wickets with 25 balls to spare.

Sabina Park is also a happy place for the Irish. The historic ground was the scene of their famous victory over Pakistan which knocked the latter out of the 2007 ICC World Cup.

So now, attention turns to the third and final ODI on Sunday. The West Indies will feel they must win, not just for pride, but more crucially to gather points toward automatic qualification for the 2023 Men's ODI World Cup in India next year.

Of note is that later this month West Indies white-ball cricketers will turn their attention to a Twenty20 (T20) series against England — part of preparation towards yet another T20 World Cup set for Australia in October this year.

Not to be forgotten in a crowded start to the cricket schedule in 2022 is the ICC Under-19 World Cup which opened Friday with hosts West Indies going down to Australia by six wickets in Guyana.

For Caribbean fans, there was considerable disappointment since the regional batters recovered brilliantly from a disastrous start at 12 for 3 in the sixth over to 107 for 3 in the 22nd over, only to be bowled out for 169, nine overs and five balls short of their allotted 50 overs.

Ill-judged stroke play largely led to the batting decline, but there were other obvious weaknesses such as fielding.

Yet there was enough on show to suggest plenty of talent among the young West Indians. We hope and expect that the team will improve to such an extent that they will be at least contenders, as the tournament approaches its climax.

That apart though, the real test will be the extent to which under-resourced Cricket West Indies will be able to help these teenagers maximise their talent for the greater good of the region and themselves in the years ahead.

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