New Zealand produced a clinical performance to beat Ireland by six wickets in the third and final T20 International match at Civil Service Cricket Club, Belfast on Friday. The win helped the Kiwis keep their all-win record against Ireland intact and complete another 3-0 series sweep. The visitors had also claimed the One Day International series 3-0 in Dublin.
Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie won the toss and opted to bat first. But after a bright start, the hosts could manage only 174/6 in their stipulated 20 overs. Paul Stirling hit 40 off 29 balls, while Mark Adair remained not out on 37 off 15.
For New Zealand, Blair Tickner and Ish Sodhi claimed two wickets each. Jacob Duffy and Daryl Mitchell were the other wicket-takers.
The Kiwis then chased down the target in 19 overs with James Neesham (23 off 6) hitting Joshua Little for a four and a six off successive deliveries to seal the win. Glenn Phillips remained unbeaten on 56 off 44, while Daryl Mitchell contributed with 48 off 32. Phillips won both the player of the match and series awards.
Ireland have fielded the same XI from the second T20I. One change for New Zealand. Blair Tickner in for Lockie Ferguson.
Ireland: Paul Stirling, Andrew Balbirnie (c), Gareth Delany, Harry Tector, Curtis Campher, Lorcan Tucker (wk), George Dockrell, Mark Adair, Barry McCarthy, Craig Young, Joshua Little.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Finn Allen, Dane Cleaver (wk), Glenn Phillips, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Michael Bracewell, Mitchell Santner (c), Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner, Jacob Duffy.
Ireland looked tenacious in the preceding ODIs, pushing New Zealand to the limit. But after their braveheart act in Dublin, came clueless outings in Belfast. They lost the first T20I by 31 runs, then suffered an 88-run defeat.
The onus is now on Andrew Balbirnie & Co. to produce an improved performance against the Kiwis. But it's easier said than done.
Stand-in skipper Mitchell Santner has successfully managed to marshall his troup so far, and with can-do-no-wrong Michael Bracewell producing magical performances, New Zealand will once again start favourites.
Then there are the likes of Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Lockie Ferguson, etc. ever ready to show their class.
This is their fourth meeting in T20Is. New Zealand have won the previous three matches convincingly.