With less than four months to go to the T20 World Cup, Ireland produced their greatest ever performance in the shortest format to give India the fright of their lives.

It may have been a four-run defeat but it was the ultimate definition of a glorious defeat as they went toe-to-toe with the best team in the world and fell agonisingly short on a memorable day in Malahide.

At half-time, in any other Ireland T20 international, it would have been game over with 225 for seven on the board. But this is no ordinary Ireland batting line-up. Finally they have a series of big hitters queuing up to strut their stuff on the big stage. And even India held no fears.

Paul Stirling set the standard by taking 18 off the first over and when he was out, two balls before the end of the powerplay, he had smashed five fours and three sixes.

In days gone by, when Stirling went, Ireland’s hopes of victory invariably went too but Harry Tector, the hero of the first match, carried on where he left off with five boundaries in his 39.

At the other end, Balbirnie played the most remarkable innings of the day. For his first seven balls he could not lay bat on ball but he then pulled Bhuvneshwar Kumar into the stands at long leg and he was off.

When he brought up his 50 off 34 balls at the end of the 10th over he had faced 21 ‘dot’ balls but hit six sixes and two fours. When he holed out to deep cover 10 runs later, he stood motionless in the crease, not believing what he had just done.

But the big hitters kept coming. It wasn’t Lorcan Tucker’s day, but George Dockrell hit his first ball over the boundary at extra cover and by the time the last over started he had scored 34 off just 15 balls with three fours and three sixes.

He had been joined at the other end by Mark Adair and the CIYMS all-rounder joined the party in the last two overs to set up the thrilling finale.

Ireland needed 31 off the last two overs, and Adair, with a four and a six off Harshal Patel, got that down to 17 off the last.

At that stage Balbirnie backed his team to win and was delighted to see India’s fastest bowler, Umar Malik, with the ball.

“I 100% thought we would do it at that stage,” said the captain. “With pace on the ball, it was three hits and our cleanest hitter, Mark Adair, was out there and in good form.”

A no-ball from the second ball of the over certainly helped and when Adair hit back to back boundaries suddenly Ireland needed eight from three balls. But in the end, Malik’s 90mph deliveries proved too good and Adair, needing a six from the last ball, could only hit it along the ground to the fielder on the cover boundary.
“I’m disappointed with the result, but totally proud of the performance,” added Balbirnie.

It wasn't a day for the bowlers. Ireland’s best was Craig Young who for the second successive match took two wickets in two balls. Indeed, after a record second wicket partnership of 176 between Player of the Match and Series Deepak Hooda and Sanju Samson ,the last three overs of the India innings gave the momentum to the Ireland batters Adair took three wickets in his last seven balls and Ireland took six for 24 runs.

A T20 win against a top-ranked side has never been closer.