It’s funny how a game that stretches over 600 balls eventually gets decided in two. It at once appears to be both implausible and unfair, but such is the nature of international cricket, as 23-year-old Ireland all-rounder Mark Adair found out.
In a one-day international that will be remembered for the ages, Adair, in just his 11th game at this level, broke first under pressure, allowing West Indies to pull off a sensational heist at Bridgetown’s Kensington Oval.
The Northern Ireland fast bowler arrived for the game’s final over with five runs to defend, an equation that fazes next to no batsman in modern-day cricket, but he also needed just one wicket to decide victory for his team. A dot ball and a single to begin the over brought it down to a run off each of the last four balls. And then, there was drama.
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Sheldon Cottrell attempted a suicidal run, challenging short cover. The fielder dived to his right and the throw arrived in no time at the bowler’s end. Cottrell was nowhere close. A run out here would end it all. And end it seemed to have, as Adair whipped the bails off.
But not so soon. The third umpire needed confirmation that the ball hadn’t left Adair’s hands. Ruchira Palliaguruge asked for every available camera angle. For about five minutes, Barbados had its eyes on the rock and roll (just not of the kind that the Caribbean is used to).
Finally, the camera zoomed in, and it appeared as though the ball had left Adair’s hands. It was so hard to tell. Eventually, the TV umpire stuck to convention and handed the benefit of the doubt to the batsman, citing “inconclusive evidence”.
But the script had more drama to it yet. After an eternal wait, play resumed, with West Indies requiring three off three. And then, again. There was a misjudgement. A throw at the wrong end. Someone slipped. Another lost balance and fumbled. None of it made for pretty viewing.
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Hayden Walsh jnr., a hero West Indies found late on Thursday, had punched a full toss into the covers. They ran the first one alright. And then, each thought the exact opposite of the other. Walsh, content with having taken the single, didn’t attempt anything more. But Cottrell had other ideas – he turned around and sprinted three-quarters of the way down the pitch. Two batsmen standing literally face to face. There was no way this wouldn’t end in a run-out, right?
Not quite. The throw came in, but not where it should have. But all was not lost yet. Cottrell had miles to cover before making his ground. He slipped while turning around, but Adair’s composure wasn’t much better either. He lost balance, and by the time he had recovered and sent the throw down to the keeper, Cottrell had made it.
One ball later, Cottrell decided he’d had enough of running adventures, and sealed the game with a six. Ian Bishop could hardly keep his voice down on air. West Indies’ players rushed out to embrace Walsh and Cottrell for giving them an unassailable 2-0 lead. Kieron Pollard was stone-faced as ever. As for Ireland, who have had to count their blessings for each time they get to come on to the field, they had to end yet another day with the lingering feeling of being hard done by.