Bangladesh win off the final ball
Ian Callender (Sunday Times)
Ireland’s last international in the shortest form of the game before they head to Sri Lanka in September for the World Twenty was full of courage but, for the second day in a row in a contest which went to the last ball, they ended up with nothing.
Bangladesh completed a 3-0 series victory when Elias Sunny hit the winning run and although the Tigers have stormed into world ranking table at No 4, behind England South Africa and Sri Lanka, the challenge of Australia and West Indies in two months time looks even more daunting for Ireland.
A total of 140 on a good Stormont pitch never looked enough but a superb fightback by the bowlers took the game to the wire. A record opening stand for Bangladesh in T20s of 62 seemed to have set them up for a straightforward success but George Dockrell made the breakthrough and in partnership with spin twin Paul Stirling (3-21) they forced the mistakes which set up the thrilling finale.
The tourists collapsed to 87 for six at the start of the 16th over, still 54 short of their victory target but Mashrafe Mortaza changed the course of the game, hitting three sixes in four balls off Dockrell and suddenly it was 14 needed off two.
Kevin O’Brien may have had a nightmare series with the bat – five runs from eight balls – including a golden duck today – but he bowled Mortaza with his final delivery to leave Bangladesh 136 for seven at the start of the last over.
Trent Johnston took the eighth wicket when he had captain Mushfiqur Rahman leg before to his third ball, but three singles off the last three balls were enough to bring more heartbreak to the home team.
The Ireland innings was one of missed opportunity with four batsmen getting past 20 but not one reached 30. Johnston had an excuse, the overs ran out on the veteran all-rounder, batting at No 8, but William Porterfield, Niall O’Brien and even the in-form Gary Wilson all found ways of getting out when well set.
O’Brien, surprisingly left out of Friday’s match line-up, was recalled in place of leading scorer Ed Joyce, who was sore after playing two games in three days, his first T20 action of the season, and Tim Murtagh, who cannot make the Middlesex team in this form of the game, made his debut in place of Alex Cusack who was also developed an injury overnight.
Boyd Rankin, who was left out of the second game with a tight quad muscle, also had to sit out the decider because there was no improvement and he was warned by his county, Warwickshire, not to risk further injury. He has still to play a first team match this season, after injuring himself in pre-season.
Porterfield failed to score from two balls, including a free hit, and although he connected with the next ball, he could only sky it to mid-wicket. O’Brien was caught at long-off and Wilson spooned a return catch to Abdur Razzak, one of the three slow left armers who had caused so much panic in the Irish ranks this series.
This time, though, it was Mortaza who was claimed the lion’s share of the wickets. As an opening bowler in the first two games, he had bowled six wicketless overs for 58. Coming on as fourth change, in the ninth over, he took four wickets in his first 14 balls at a cost of just eight runs as Ireland collapsed from 71 for one to 84 for five.
Unlike their Full Member opponents, who hit 69 off the last five overs in match one and 40 from the last three on Friday, Ireland have consistently struggled for high-scoring runs at the death, so 37 was as good as it gets for this team. For the second day in a row it was, by one run, not enough.