Ireland – 178-2 in 20 overs (Paul Stirling 115*, Andy Balbirnie 31, Shane Getkate 19*; Ryan Burl 1/30, Luke Jongwe 1/37)
Zimbabwe – 138 all out in 18.2 overs (Craig Ervine 33, Ryan Burl 26, Dion Myers 14; Mark Adair 3/11, Josh Little 2/18, Ben White 2/23)
Ireland won by 40 runs
Paul Stirling scored a brilliant century that laid the foundation for Ireland’s 40-run victory over Zimbabwe in the third T20I at Bready on Wednesday.
The tourists, playing an unchanged team, put the hosts in to bat on winning the toss this time.
Stirling announced himself early by getting off the mark with a slog-sweep for six off Wellington Masakadza in the first over, and in the next took a four off Richard Ngarava past third man.
In Tendai Chatara’s next over Kevin O’Brien pulled a six over midwicket, while a similar short ball from Ngarava to Stirling was met with the same treatment.
Luke Jongwe came on to bowl the sixth over, and removed O’Brien (9), who miscued a ball to be caught by Craig Ervine at mid-off; 32 for one.
With Andy Balbirnie in, the fifty came up after nine overs.
Stirling continued to dominate the scoring, reaching 50 off 47 balls.
The team 100 came up in the 15th over, with only one wicket down.
In the following over, however, Ryan Burl removed Balbirnie (31), who slashed a catch straight to Milton Shumba at backward point; 109 for two.
Shane Getkate started attacking the bowling immediately, but the 19th over, bowled by Chatara, was very expensive for Zimbabwe.
Twenty-five runs came from it, with Stirling hitting three sixes and a four, and romping to his century off 70 balls.
Jongwe bowled the final over, which went for 16 runs, taking the total to 178 for two wickets.
Stirling finished unbeaten with 115 off 75 balls, with eight sixes and eight fours, while Getkate had 19 off 11 balls.
The most economical of Zimbabwe’s bowlers was Burl, who took one wicket in his four overs for 30 runs.
This meant that Zimbabwe would need to set a new team record to win this match, scoring at virtually nine runs an over, as the highest target they have successfully achieved is 172, which was actually done on this same ground on their previous tour in July 2019.
Stirling also opened the bowling for Ireland, but Wessly Madhevere gave the visitors a flying start by hitting three fours off it, with 14 runs being scored altogether.
However, at the other end Mark Adair had him caught off his second ball for 13.
Tadiwanashe Marumani and Regis Chakabva knew they had no time to play themselves in and managed to score off almost every delivery.
However, the fourth over saw the dismissal of Marumani for 14, miscuing a drive off Josh Little to be caught at extra cover; 33 for two.
Forty-one runs came off the first five overs, almost up with the required run rate.
Dion Myers began well, scoring 13 off the first seven balls he faced, but Chakabva did not manage to get going, and was given out lbw to Ben White for seven; 54 for three in the seventh over.
The following over saw Myers holing out at long-on off Getkate for 14, and the score was 56 for four in the eighth over.
Ervine began well, hitting both White and Simi Singh for sixes over long-on, but he lost Shumba, bowled by White for six; 84 for five in the 11th over.
Jongwe made seven before skying a catch to the keeper at 97 for six in the 12th over.
The team 100 came up in the 13th over, but the required run rate was now more than 10 an over.
Ervine was bowled by a ball from Getkate that kept low – he scored 33 off 18 balls and seven wickets were down for 105 in the 14th over.
Burl and Masakadza concentrated on ones and twos before a good fast ball from Little bowled Masakadza for four; 125 for eight in the 16th over.
Now Burl was ready to hit, so he took on the medium pace of Getkate and smote him for four and six off successive balls.
However, going for another big hit off Adair, he was caught at fine leg for 26 off 23 balls; 136 for nine in the 18th over.
The last pair managed only two runs before, in the 19th over, Richard Ngarava ran himself out for one, leaving Chatara not out with three and the total 138.
Adair was the most successful bowler, with three wickets for only 11 runs in three overs, while there were two wickets apiece for Little, Getkate and White.
Ireland now hold a two-one lead in the five-match series.