New Zealand piled up 360 for 6 - the second-highest total in ODI cricket at The Village in Malahide - but it appeared lighter once Paul Stirling and Harry Tector hit full-tilt in the chase. After New Zealand ultimately scraped home by one run, Martin Guptill , who had set up the narrow victory with 115 off 126 balls, conceded that they "potentially left a few [runs] out there" and that they could've been at the wrong end of a tense finish had Stirling and Tector extended their 179-run third-wicket partnership.
"It was always challenging. We potentially left a few out there," Guptill told New Zealand Cricket. "I think if we had [lost] couple of less wickets at certain wickets, we could have really put the hammer down towards the end but to be able to get 360 and defend it, it was a great effort.
"[Ireland's chase] was impressive. They lost an early wicket and a little partnership and another wicket and obviously, a massive partnership. [For] chasing big totals like that, partnerships are a key and if they [Stirling and Tector] could've taken it another five-ten overs longer, that would've taken it away from us very quickly."
That New Zealand defended 360 was down to impressive spells from Matt Henry and Mitchell Santner who picked up seven wickets between them. Even Blair Tickner, who often erred short during his previous shifts on tour, eventually dragged the ball away from the hitting arcs of Ireland's lower order when he began trusting his changes of pace.
"I think the boys came back really well," Guptill said. "It's pretty tough to defend on a ground like this - small ground, good wicket, fast outfield - and we got two guys in and going. It was tough to shut them down. I thought the guys stuck at it really well. They came out here and played with no fear, which is what you want to do when you're batting, so it was good. Matt Henry, to take four [4-68] on that wicket, unbelievable effort."
Guptill's contribution to the victory earned him the Player-of-the-Match award, which during the course of an emotional presentation ceremony, he dedicated to his father who died in 2017 after a long battle with cancer. With 18 ODI centuries, he is now getting ever closer to the New Zealand record - 21 - currently held by his great mate Ross Taylor.
"A bit of an innings of two halves, really," Guptill said while assessing his performance. "Out of the blocks pretty quickly, felt really good up until about 75, then I just got myself stuck in a bit of a hole and couldn't rotate the strike as well as I had been. I just got a little bit frustrated."
New Zealand could afford that little splutter with their lower middle order picking up the slack. Henry Nicholls walloped 79 off 54, Glenn Phillips hit 47 off 30 and Michael Bracewell put the finishing touches in while also taking his tournament tally to 190 off 138 without being dismissed.
"[Those contributions were] vital," Guptill said. "Obviously, Beast [Bracewell] at the end as well; he was striking it nicely. To have those guys pitching in and GP [Phillips] ended up close to fifty…Unlucky, not to get to his first fifty, but he contributed with a fantastic innings to help us get to that 360."
Phillips, though, had a forgettable day in the field, dropping as many as three catches, one of which he parried over the ropes for four, which left Ireland needing five off the last three balls. Such lapses in the field prompted New Zealand into some tense mid-over conferences, which involved Guptill among other senior players.
"I didn't say too much (laughs). It was just to keep sticking at it," Guptill said. "Obviously, Glenn can do pretty freakish things on the boundary and he made a couple of outstanding efforts there and you know that didn't quite go to hand, but that's how cricket goes, isn't it? You're not going to catch everything and things like that…ebbs and flows of the game. That's what makes it so exciting. It was just to keep sticking at it and make sure we keep doing our processes and hopefully, come out on top."
Guptill, 35, is not used in Test cricket anymore, so he wasn't part of the squad who became the format's first champions last year. His only shot at winning an ICC trophy lies in the shorter formats and ahead of New Zealand's European tour, he laid bare his motivation to play the T20 World Cup later this year and the ODI World Cup that follows in 2023. With this innings, he put those words to action.