Ireland performance no surpriseSave
By David Leggat
No one should be surprised Ireland gave New Zealand some serious cheek in their tri-series ODI yesterday.
Let's get this sorted first though; New Zealand won the match by 51 runs, their first under fill-in-skipper Tom Latham.
The margin is convincing enough, even though Ireland, chasing a tough 290 to win, were right in the fight until a late tumble cost them five for 26.
While centurymaker Niall O'Brien, a tough competitor with vast English county experience behind him, remained at the crease, the Irish were a chance.
He departed for a maiden ODI ton, 109 off 131 balls to his name, with 54 needed off 34 balls and that was that.
The last time the teams met, in 2008, New Zealand rattled up 402 for two, and won by a mile. Those days are long gone.
Ireland, remember, are an International Cricket Council stamp away from test status, probably as soon as next month.
The days of the Irish turning up with little expectation of success against the test nations, but having a piles of cracking bonhomie afterwards, are gone. The first bit anyway.
Ireland have had some wonderful days at ICC tournaments.
Remember their three-wicket World Cup wins over Pakistan in Jamaica in 2007 and England at Bangalore four years later, one a lowscoring contest, the other a staggering batting performance by Kevin O'Brien helping them reach 329 and nobble England.
They do have it in them and they're a better, more professional and organised setup, under the guidance of gnarly former New Zealand allrounder John Bracewell these days.
New Zealand are also without a clutch of leading players, still at the Indian Premier League.
All that said, New Zealand would have been given a kick in the backside had they lost today after the batting effort they produced.
They racked up enough runs on a slowish pitch, Neil Broom providing the appropriate shove when momentum was needed, making 79 off 63 balls.
However the bowling was wobbly through the middle stages, after debut pair Scott Kuggeleijn and Seth Rance did a tidy job up front.
Mitchell Santner capitalised late on against batting which looked panicked and failed to grasp a grand opportunity.
Santner's five for 50 are his best in an ODI career already 33 matches old.
Some of New Zealand's fielding late on lacked polish but overall, the first game for several weeks for some of them, you take the win, pick out the good bits and move on, and preferably upwards.
Bangladesh are next up on Wednesday night.
New Zealand know them well, and beat them in all eight matches on their tour of New Zealand last summer.
But, again, they're no slouches. They're also in New Zealand's Champions Trophy pool early next month.
They'll know each other even better when they clash at Cardiff on June 9 too after this handy little double round robin leadup.