New Zealand seal last-ball thriller despite Stirling, Tector tons

Martin Guptill and Henry Nicholls set Ireland a daunting 361, and they came agonisingly close

New Zealand 360 for 6 (Guptill 115, Nicholls 79, Little 2-84) beat Ireland 359 for 9 (Stirling 120, Tector 108, Henry 4-68, Santner 3-71) by one run

Barnstorming centuries from Paul Stirling and Harry Tector gave New Zealand an almighty scare but they survived it to defend 360 in a 719-run slugfest on a true Malahide track. With Ireland needing 10 off the last over, Blair Tickner, New Zealand’s least experienced seamer and their most expensive bowler on tour, closed out a one-run victory as New Zealand broke Irish hearts once again.

Tickner hid the first two deliveries away from the reach of debutant Graham Hume, conceding just one run. Then, Glenn Phillips, who is among New Zealand’s best fielders, dropped Craig Young next ball at the midwicket boundary and ended up parrying the ball past the rope for four. Although it was a tough chance, it was Phillips’ third drop of the day, and New Zealand might have felt the game slipping from their grasp as well.

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Young, however, panicked under pressure and ran himself out while trying to scramble a second run next ball, leaving Ireland with four to get off the last two balls, with No.11 Josh Little on strike. He could only manage a single off the penultimate ball and Hume a bye off the last as New Zealand squeezed their way to a 3-0 whitewash and maintained their perfect record in the World Cup Super League.

At one stage, Ireland were well on track to hunting down 361 and pulling off the joint third-highest successful chase in men’s ODIs. Stirling and Tector struck up a 179-run partnership – Ireland’s highest for the third wicket and sixth highest overall – but Stirling’s exit in the 35th over threatened to turn the game once more. It became a full-blown collapse when Martin Guptill, who had torched New Zealand’s innings with a hundred of his own, completed a spectacular one-handed grab at extra-cover to dismiss Gareth Delany for 22 off 16 balls. From 271 for 3, Ireland lost 6 for 86 and eventually the game.

After taking a bit of a tap from Stirling and Tector, Mitchell Santner darted the old ball into the pitch and tricked the Ireland batters with his subtle variations. He was responsible for the wickets of Delany, Tector and Lorcan Tuckner. After hitting a hard length to draw a return catch from Curtis Campher, Tickner then smartly kept the ball away from the swinging arcs of Ireland’s lower order in the last over.

Paul Stirling gave the chase impetus with a 103-ball 120Sportsfile/Getty Images

During the ongoing home summer, Ireland had run India close during the two-match T20I series and then New Zealand during the first two ODIs, but they couldn’t close out any of those games. Friday proved to be the same old story for Ireland.

Stirling and Tector, however, had dominated the chase after Matt Henry had struck twice in the first powerplay to have Ireland 62 for 2 in the tenth over. Stirling was already set on 30 off 33 balls by this stage. He turned up the tempo two overs later when he dashed out of the crease and mowed Michael Bracewell over the long-on boundary for the first of his five sixes. Stirling went on to explore every part of the ground, against every bowler, to thrill an expectant crowd at The Village.

He laced Lockie Ferguson through the covers, clubbed Santner across the line and against the intended turn over wide long-on, reverse-swept Bracewell past short third man, muscled Tickner over square leg, and flat-batted Phillips over cover-point. Stirling brought up his 13th ODI ton and his 150-run stand with Tector via a carved four off Bracewell.

On his ODI debut in 2008, Stirling watched Brendon McCullum and James Marshall pound Ireland as New Zealand ran up a total of 402 in Aberdeen. Fourteen years later, Stirling combined with Tector to unleash similar mayhem on New Zealand. Much like Stirling, Tector was fluent on either side of the wicket and often manufactured his own lengths by slinking around or out of his crease. New Zealand could have dismissed him on 44 when Ferguson’s slower yorker kissed the outside of his off stump, but the bails didn’t budge. Tector pressed on to bring up his second ton in three games, but his ill-fated reverse-sweep off Santner left the tail with too much to do.

Martin Guptill scored his 18th ODI hundredGetty Images

A breezy century from Guptill and an even breezier 79 from Henry Nicholls formed the centerpiece of New Zealand’s innings, which also featured cameos from Finn Allen (33), Tom Latham (30), Phillips (47) and Bracewell (21*).

Guptill’s driving down the ground and through the covers was supreme, as is the case with most of his big knocks. He reached his fifty off 43 balls and then slowed down once spinners Andy McBrine and Delany found some grip with the old ball. He slowed down further in the nineties, needing 18 balls to move from 90 to triple figures.

Guptill reached his 18th ODI ton – only his old mate Ross Taylor has more centuries for New Zealand in the format – with a six off a free-hit. After Guptill fell for 115 off 126 balls, Nicholls took over and found some overdue form.

Since his 57 against Netherlands at home in March, Nicholls had managed just 104 runs in eight innings across formats at an average of 13.00, until Friday. Along the way, he had had to deal with a bout of Covid-19 and a calf injury. And once he came back into the ODI scheme of things, he had to contend with dropping down to the middle order to accommodate Allen at the top.

Nicholls regularly jumped across to off to freely access the leg side, through which he scored 54 of his 79 runs. Ireland tried to match up McBrine’s offspin against the left-hander, but it didn’t work, as Nicholls took 24 off 16 balls from him. Nicholls brought up his fifty off 38 balls and looked good for more, but Young cut his innings short with an offcutter.

Phillips and Bracewell then bashed 45 together off a mere 23 balls to help take New Zealand to 360. In the end, it proved to be just enough.