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– Michael Bracewell was the architect of a dramatic heist at Malahide as New Zealand sealed the first ODI against Ireland by one wicket with a ball remaining.
His unbeaten century trumped a sublime hundred for Harry Tector and an all-round show from Curtis Campher, with Ireland denied their first-ever win over the Black Caps in heart-breaking circumstances.
Having put up 300 with the bat, Ireland carried the momentum into their start with the ball, Mark Adair and Craig Young each striking inside the first six overs. Debutant Finn Allen started positively before hitting the former up in the air, McBrine settling under the steepler, and the latter getting No.3 Will Young, forcing his namesake to edge behind.
The tourists were 19-2, and while there were hints of a middle-order rebuild, Campher interjected with a trio of vital interventions to keep Ireland on top. First he removed New Zealand captain Tom Latham, who was caught out by a full toss destined for leg stump. Then it was Henry Nicholls, outfoxed by a hint of away seam, before half-centurion Martin Guptill failed to get any bat on a pinpoint yorker and was bowled.
When Guptill fell, New Zealand were 120-5, with Michael Bracewell, just three ODI caps and four runs to his name, coming in to bat. He constructed a series of lower-order partnerships to bring the Black Caps back into the game, with Ireland striking to ensure they remained ahead of the game but New Zealand just about hanging on in the contest.
Glenn Phillips, on debut, contributed 38 before being removed lbw by Andy McBrine while Ish Sodhi kept New Zealand fighting with 25 before being run out by Campher. When Josh Little nicked off Matt Henry for a duck, Ireland were just two wickets away, with New Zealand still needing 84 off 7.2 overs. But as long as Bracewell remained at the crease, the Black Caps had hope, and as he continued to marshall the chase, the possibility of a stunning comeback grew more likely.
His hundred was brought up on the final ball of the 48th over, with Bracewell’s muted celebration indicating the job was far from done, and his task only grew tougher as Adair delivered an excellent penultimate over, conceding just four runs and bowling Lockie Ferguson with its final ball.
That left 20 runs needed to win and Bracewell on strike, with no margin for error, and he seized the moment, manufacturing the opportunity to hit to the leg-side and smashing three fours and two sixes to seal victory with a ball to spare. His score was the highest by a No.7 in a successful ODI chase.
Earlier Tector was the star of Ireland’s batting effort, making his maiden international hundred, though there were contributions from throughout the batting order. The 22-year-old came in with his side in trouble, openers Andrew Balbirnie and Paul Stirling dismissed in single figures, and set about rebuilding the innings with a series of substantial stands.
Tector took his time to get set, choosing to rebuild safely at first, but scored more freely as the innings went on. His last 16 balls before being dismissed were despatched for 40 runs, with the flurry of strokes to bring up the milestone especially pleasing. Twice he advanced and timed Blair Tickner sumptuously to the rope, once on the off-side and once on the leg, before staying in his crease to the next two deliveries to nail a pair of orthodox cover drives, with four fours in four balls moving him from 85 to 101 in a flourish.
Although this marked Tector’s first international three-figure score, it was also a continuation of his excellent recent returns. The innings was his fourth consecutive fifty-plus score in ODIs (a feat matched only by Paul Stirling among Irishmen) with the run of form extending back to eight fifty-plus scores in his last 11 innings.
This wasn’t simply a one-man show, with Tector receiving sterling support from the rest of the middle order, who made a succession of increasingly aggressive cameos. McBrine continued to showcase solidity in his new role at No.3, making a steady 58-ball 39 in a half-century stand.
His departure saw Campher join Tector at the crease, and the two youngsters put on the day’s largest partnership. With Ireland scoring at just over four an over when Campher entered, the pair also added some vital impetus, with Campher scoring 29 off 23 balls at the end of his innings following a cautious start. The off-spin of Bracewell was lap-swept and thumped over mid-off and Henry thumped for back-to-back boundaries as Ireland upped the ante.
Campher fell for 43, Phillips beating his backfoot push with an off-break to claim his maiden ODI wicket, but Lorcan Tucker picked up the momentum immediately, slog-sweeping Sodhi for six off just the ninth ball he faced and adding 10 more off two balls in the legspinner’s next over.
His dismissal, holing out to an extraordinary, leaping one-hander from Bracewell on the boundary, precipitated a mini-collapse, with Tector and Adair following Tucker back to the pavilion, and it looked as if a slide of 12-3 had become 12-4 when Simi Singh was given out caught behind first ball. However, a review showed the ball had merely flicked the pad, and Singh made the most of the reprieve, striking a brisk 30. With George Dockrell, making his 100th ODI appearance, contributing 18, Ireland pushed up to exactly 300 by the end of the innings.
It was the hosts’ second-highest total at Malahide, and it gave them the ascendancy heading into the innings break. But, although they remained ahead throughout most of the chase, it was Bracewell and New Zealand who won out.