Prior to the opening encounter of the 2-match series, the likeliest of threats for India's bowlers would have been focussed around the likes of Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling. However, the lesser known James Shannon arrived into the limelight with a sparkling half-century in the first T20I at The Village in Malahide.
Chasing a mammoth target of 209, Shannon gave a slender chance for the hosts. The hard-hitting opener smashed a quickfire 60 before being trapped in front by Kuldeep Yadav. His 35-ball knock was laced with 5 boundaries as well as 4 sixes.
On either side of Shannon's impressive performance, Ireland found the going tough against a well-oiled Indian outfit. After a below par initiation to captaincy during the recently completed tri-series at Netherlands, Gary Wilson won the toss and saw his bowlers concede a 160-run opening partnership.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma led India's charge on a gloriously sunny evening in Dublin. Up against some rather ordinary bowling from the hosts, the experienced opening duo set the foundation for a formidable total.
James Shannon rides his luck
Ireland began their run-chase on a horror note as key man Paul Stirling perished in the second over of the innings. Swinging hard without covering the line, he skied a top-edge which fell into the safe hands of Kuldeep.
Shannon found his momentum by putting away a short delivery from Bumrah. A serendipitous edge off the very next ball meant that he had back to back boundaries to his name. He had his fair share of luck during the initial phase of his stay at the crease.
After witnessing Hardik Pandya drop a tricky chance in the opening over, Shannon was reprieved once each in the third and fourth overs. Yuzvendra Chahal and Rohit Sharma were the culprits as India picked up the catching malaise from their Irish counterparts.
Shannon might just have rubbed salt into the bowlers' wounds when he hammered Pandya and Chahal for a couple of towering sixes. The leg-spinner, in particular, was at the receiving end of some remarkable striking from the belligerent right-hander.
Fittingly, the 28-year old batsman brought up his maiden T20I half-century off the bowling of Chahal. He had picked the leg-spinner's variations adeptly and targeted the shorter boundaries quite smartly. However, the introduction of Kuldeep at the other end brought about his undoing.
Wily Kuldeep shows his wares
Kuldeep did not have to wait long before getting into the wickets column. He induced a tame edge off the blade of Simi Singh in the third delivery of his spell. Skipper Wilson played out the remaining three balls to evince a maiden.
A significant moment in the match came when Kuldeep trapped Shannon with a fuller one. Noticing his opponent's affinity for the sweep shot, the left-arm wrist-spinner ensnared him by bowling quicker than anticipated. The umpire had no hesitation in sending the Irishman on his way.
Chahal finally came into his own in the final over of his spell. Despite copping a few hefty blows from the batsmen, he kept tossing the ball and was aptly rewarded for his courage. He dismissed Kevin O'Brien and Wilson off consecutive deliveries.
With the contest all but over, Kuldeep hastened Ireland's downfall. Upon enticing Stuart Thompson by imparting generous loop, the 23-year old utilised his well-disguised googly to clean up Stuart Poynter. He finished with career-best T20I figures of 4/21.
While the result fell along expected lines, India will be reasonably pleased to begin their UK tour with a convincing 76-run victory. Sterner tests may await in the coming days. But the visitors will enter those with the knowledge that they can rely on the wicket-taking abilities of their game-changing wrist-spinners.Published 28 Jun 2018, 00:28 IST