Nelson (New Zealand), Feb 16: Ireland justified their giant-killer tag by creating the first major upset of the cricket World Cup, shocking West Indies by four wickets in their opening encounter at Saxton Oval, here today.
Chasing 305 for a win, Ireland rode on brilliant half-centuries from Paul Stirling (92), Ed Joyce (84) and Niall O'Brian (79 not out) to canter home in 45.5 overs.
Stirling, registering his seventh ODI half-century, stitched a 71-run opening stand with captain William Porterfield (23) and then managed 106 runs with Joyce (84) for the second wicket to make the chase look easy.
Stirling finally departed in the 28th over, but his 84-ball stay laced with nine fours and two sixes, had already done the damage. Joyce, whose 67-ball knock was studded with 10 fours and two sixes, then stuck it out with Niall O'Brien (79 not out) for a 96-run third-wicket partnership to take the team forward.
Joyce, who registered his 10th ODI fifty, was confidence personified as the left-handed batsman dominated proceedings against a hapless West Indies attack.
But medium-pacer Jerome Taylor put some roadblocks in the Irish way after sending back Joyce in the 40th over and then picked up two more wickets in Andy Balbirnie (9) and wicketkeeper-batsman Gary Wilson (1).
Kevin O'Brien was run out for a duck creating some uneasiness in the Irish camp, but older brother Naill stayed on to ensure the big upset. Jason Holder's West Indies was at the receiving end of some clinical batting by the Irish batsmen as the eight bowlers used by the think-tank bled way too many runs.
Earlier put into bat, West Indies were in early trouble at 87 for five before Lendl Simmons (102) and Darren Sammy (89) rescued the Caribbean side to a decent-looking score of 304 for seven.
Young left-arm spinner George Dockrell made an impact with three wickets to rattle the West Indies top-order only to be stabilised by the 154-run sixth wicket stand between Simmons and Sammy.
Ireland, who shot to prominence by defeating Pakistan in the league stage of the 2007 World Cup to make it to the knockouts in West Indies, are once again being seen as a dangerous outfit in Pool B comprising India, Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe.
Four teams from each pool will make it to the quarter-final stage and Ireland have already beaten a potential final-eight prospect in the first game itself.
Dockrell kept up the pressure
In the West Indies' innings, Ireland medium-pacer Kevin O'Brien (1-71) drew first blood after sending back after sending back opener Dwayne Smith (18) in the eight over.
Darren Bravo was soon run out for a duck as Gayle (36) tried to pull things together in his 65-ball stay, laced with 3 fours and a six. But left-arm spinner Dockrell soon swung into action to pick the all-important wicket of Gayle and trapped Marlon Samuels (21) lbw in the space of three deliveries.
Dockrell kept up the pressure after sending back wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin (1) in his very next over to rattle the West Indies. But then came the moment of resurrection for as Simmons and Sammy combined the right dose of caution and aggression to slowly and steadily help the team spring back.
Once the duo brought some sanity to the innings, it took the attack to the opposition and literally toyed with the inexperienced Irish attack. Hitting his ninth ODI half-century, Sammy's 67-ball stay was laced with 9 fours and 4 sixes while Simmons, registering his 2nd ODI hundred, hit 9 fours and 5 sixes in his 84-ball knock.
Sammy was finally picked up by Ireland pace spearhead John Mooney (1-59) in the 45th over but the former West Indies captain had already done the damage by then.
Simmons carried on in the same vein as Andre Russell (27 not out) joined him for some lusty hitting in the final five overs of the innings. The duo managed a 61-run seventh wicket stand, as Russell hit 3 fours and a six in his 13-ball cameo.
West Indies, who had started off poorly, finished on a high with 61 runs from the last 30 deliveries. But little did West Indies know that the giant-looking score will do little to unnerve the strong Irish resolve. PT