Andrew Balbirnie struck a magnificent 160 not out as the Ireland Wolves won game 5 against Bangladesh A by 8-wickets to tie the series 2 all.
If Wednesday’s story of the game was Bangladesh captain Mominul Haque then Friday was dominated by the fantastic Pembroke man, Andrew Balbirnie. So good was Balbirnie, he outshone List A bests of 5-42 from Peter Chase and 89 runs from Andrew McBrine.
Like Wednesday’s fourth match, Rahman fell early but Zakir Hasan and Haque couldn’t emulate their massive partnership of two days ago. Instead Chase had the wickets of both openers, Rahman (20) and Hasan (10) to leave Bangladesh A 47/2 after 10 overs.
Chase’s third wicket was the massive scalp of Haque (46) who chipped to Garth at mid-wicket and the Wolves were firmly on top. The Wolves bowlers were restricting the run rate as well as taking wickets and Bangladesh were just 132/4 after 30 overs.
Mohammed Mithun (73) and Faisal Mahmud (74) added some late impetus to the Bangladesh innings and threatened to take the total beyond an unlikely 300.
However, after JJ Garth trapped Mithun LBW, Chase returned to the attack to complete his 5-fer and Graham Kennedy got among the wickets, bowling Mahmud in the final over. Captain for the day, Harry Tector, rotated his bowling options well and get the best out of them.
After 50 overs, Bangladesh A had made 283/8 and set the Wolves a decent if not impossible target. Speaking after the game Balbirnie praised Peter Chase. “To get 5-fer on that wicket is an exceptional effort.”
Balbirnie wasn’t due to play today but he padded up to open the chase with James Shannon.
“I was told if I had a good day at The Hills (106), I could have today off,” Balbirnie said. “It would have been nice to rest the body, but James (McCollum) went down in the warm-up. I didn’t have much time to get my head around it and we stuck with Harry as captain as we’d told him last night.”
In just the sixth over he lost Shannon (4), who chipped directly to mid-off. This brought Andy McBrine to the crease and what a partnership they put together.
The pair were unplayable at times as they manoeuvred the ball to all parts of the wagon-wheel. To begin with though, they worked the ball and ran well collecting their singles and building the partnership.
Balbirnie gradually accelerated as his total built. His first 50 taking 64 balls, but his 3rd 50 just 27 as he unfurled all his shots.
There were some vintage Balbirnie shots, consecutive sweeps to the clubhouse leg-side for four and then 6 saw to that. There were also cover drives and square cuts a-plenty. As cliched as it sounds, today he was in the zone.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with that,” he said after the game. “When you wake up in the morning, you never expect to make a score like that in a one-day game.
“But it’s a brilliant surface in Clontarf and you get value for your shots. I was just saying to Ed Joyce there, it was one of three or four times when I felt I could put the ball wherever I wanted, I was seeing it so big.”
Andrew McBrine wasn’t a silent partner in their mammoth 197 for the second wicket. He hit nine boundaries of his own in his 89 and looked just as comfortable through the on and off-sides.
As Balbirnie said after the match, “when it happens like today, you’ve got to cash in”, and they certainly did.
With Simi Singh (20 not out) for company, Balbirnie guided the Wolves home with 3.2 overs to spare.
The final say, on a great day for the Ireland Wolves, went to Balbirnie. “It’s great to get some form, heading into a busy August with the national team and the T20 series next week.”
After Balbirnie, McBrine and Chase’s heroics today the 50-over series with Bangladesh was tied two games each, while Andrew Balbirnie with centuries in the last two matches was names Man of the Series.
The two sides will renew acquaintances next Monday, in Clontarf once again, for the first of three T20 matches. If they’re half as entertaining as the 50-over series, we’ll be in for a treat.
Ireland Wolves v Bangladesh A, Game 5 of 5 50-Over Matches, August 10th
At Clontarf CC:
Bangladesh A 283/8 50 overs (F Mahmud 74, M Mithun 73; P Chase 5-42)
Ireland Wolves 285/2 46.4 overs (A Balbirnie 160*, A McBrine 89; Sl Islam 1-45)
Ireland Wolves win by 8 wickets
Ireland Wolves & Bangladesh A tie series 2-2