Mohali: West Indies opener Devon Smith made a maiden century but his anonymous effort was overshadowed by Kieron Pollard's blitz as he bludgeoned a limited Ireland attack in Mohali to muscle West Indies to a tall total and quell the criticism over his lack of performances at the international level. It was West Indies' third win in four matches and put them in prime position for a quarter-final spot.
A fluent Ed Joyce steered Ireland's sprightly chase but they lacked the spark needed to chase down the substantial score, though for the fourth match in a row they showed they aren't out of place at the top table. They kept fighting even when hopes of a victory were lost, reducing the margin of defeat to 44 runs and ensuring that their net run-rate didn't take too big a hit.
The decision to replace the injured Chris Gayle with bowling allrounder Andre Russell meant West Indies had a long tail, and no batsman of note below No. 5. That meant Ireland would have been the happier side when West Indies crawled to 142 for 3 by the 35th over. The batsmen gambled by taking the batting Powerplay then; a wicket at that stage could have scuppered the innings, but Ireland couldn't make the vital breakthrough and were helpless as the power of Pollard helped ransack 55 runs in five overs to shift the balance of the game.
Ireland had two gilt-edged chances to remove Pollard in the Powerplay: John Mooney narrowly missed a direct hit from square leg when Pollard had given up hope of making his ground in the 37th over, and Gary Wilson shelled a catch at long-on after hurtling across to get to a skier in the next over.
Over the next 45 minutes Pollard made them regret those misses with his now familiar brand of hitting, mainly muscling boundaries in the arc between long-on and midwicket. Boyd Rankin, Ireland's quickest, was brought in to handcuff Pollard, but his short ball was walloped to midwicket and an attempted yorker was pummeled down the ground. Rankin was rattled by the ferocity of the second hit, muttering to himself as his fractional mistake was punished.
A drive to midwicket in the 42nd over brought up Pollard's half-century in 35 balls - celebrated by kissing an arm band bearing the injured allrounder Dwayne Bravo's number - but he was just warming up. The wickets tumbled at the other end, but there was no stopping Pollard, who capped a frenzy of hitting with a 20 runs of an O'Brien over, which included a monstrous one-handed six that easily sailed over deep midwicket.
O'Brien had taken four wickets for the first time in his one-day career, but the Pollard assault ruined his figures. Pollard was also in line for the second quickest World Cup hundred -after O'Brien's epic against England last month - but fell attempting a six over long-off.
The pyrotechnics at the end made up for a dull start to the match in front of a nearly empty stadium when the West Indies openers played the dibbly-dobbly Ireland bowling with undue caution. There were only six fours in the first 15 overs on a track that, despite plenty of grass, afforded little movement for the seamers.
West Indies were dawdling at three-and-a-half an over when O'Brien struck in the 25th over: getting Chanderpaul first, and Darren Bravo for a duck three balls later. Smith persevered and he stepped up his strike-rate in the Powerplay with an array of fours, reaching his hundred in 39th over before O'Brien struck twice in an over for the second time, though that didn't stop the runs. Puzzlingly, Ireland used their best bowler, left-arm spinner George Dockrell, for only three overs.
Ireland's chase got off to a terrible start as Paul Stirling's horror World Cup continued, dismissed in the second over. Joyce walked in and caressed his first two deliveries for four and Ireland sprinted to 35/0 in five, before Darren Sammy reeled off three maidens in a row to create the pressure that led to William Porterfield's dismissal.
Joyce and Niall O'Brien steadied Ireland, adding 44 trouble-free runs before Niall O'Brien played down the wrong line to Sulieman Benn. Joyce and Wilson then forged the biggest partnership of the innings to keep Ireland afloat, but just as Wilson picked up the pace with a huge six and two reverse-swept fours, Joyce was dismissed. Kevin O'Brien fell to a spectacular diving catch from Pollard and with that Ireland's hopes were washed away.
There was a controversial UDRS decision that ended Wilson's stay in the 42nd over, but by then Ireland were hurtling towards their third defeat, and now need two wins to qualify for the next stage.