Zimbabwe clinch last-ball thriller to sink Ireland in first ODI
Ireland – 288-4 in 50 overs (Andy Balbirnie 121, Harry Tector 101*, Paul Stirling 13; Victor Nyauchi 2/65, Richard Ngarava 1/40, Sikandar Raza 1/47)
Zimbabwe – 214-7 in 37 overs (Ryan Burl 59, Sikandar Raza 43, Craig Ervine 38; Mark Adair 2/40, Graham Hume 2/41, Harry Tector 1/20)
Zimbabwe won by three wickets (Duckworth-Lewis method)
Zimbabwe clinched a last-ball thriller to defeat Ireland by three wickets in a rain-affected one-day international match at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday, thanks to brilliant batting from Ryan Burl and Sikandar Raza and one final blow from Clive Madande that brought the hosts back almost from the dead.
The home team put the tourists in to bat on winning the toss, taking a risk with the unsettled weather which might – and did – bring Duckworth-Lewis into operation later in the game.
Richard Ngarava and Victor Nyauchi bowled very well to give Zimbabwe a good start with the early wickets of the Ireland openers.
Nyauchi moved a ball in to bowl out Stephen Doheny for three, and then Ngarava took the vital wicket of Paul Stirling, a man who has scored heavily off Zimbabwe in the past, trapping him lbw for 13 with an excellent full-length ball.
But then came the partnership that almost took the game away from Zimbabwe, as Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie played himself in well and was joined at the crease by the dynamic young all-rounder Harry Tector.
The other Zimbabwe bowlers were generally consistent, but less effective, the fielding was not as vibrant as usual, and the pair continued to bat superbly, keeping the runs flowing although never really tearing the bowling apart.
They came together in the ninth over and stayed together until the 45th over, when the partnership came to an unfortunate end.
Balbirnie, having reached his eighth ODI century, received an accidental high full toss from Brad Evans, which he tried to pull, but top-edged the ball hard into the grill of his visor.
He had to retire hurt with 121, a magnificent innings for his team that lasted 137 balls and contained three sixes and 13 fours.
Tector stayed to the end of the innings, although he lost two partners in George Dockrell for 12, off five balls, and Curtis Camphor for eight, to the bowling of Raza and Nyauchi respectively.
In the final over, Tector reached his third ODI century and finished with 101 not out, having taken 109 balls and including a six and eight fours.
His partner at the finish was Lorcan Tucker, 12 not out off eight balls, and the total was a daunting 288 for four wickets.
When Zimbabwe went in, Wessly Madhevere suffered another unfortunate dismissal, as in the fifth over, with only five runs on the board and his own score two, he sliced a drive to be caught at backward point off the bowling of Mark Adair.
Craig Ervine joined Innocent Kaia at the crease, and soon announced himself with a handsome on-drive for four, but survived a difficult chance at backward point off a cut.
The pair pushed the score along briskly, but Kaia was dropped off a rather difficult chance when he miscued a pull.
A repeat of that shot saw him caught off Graham Hume for 19 – 49 for two in the 13th over.
Ervine and Gary Ballance took the score to 80 before Ervine checked a drive against Tector, lobbing the ball up towards mid-off, and the bowler ran back to hold a very good catch.
He had made 38 off 43 balls and the score was 80 for three in the 20th over.
Raza came in, vibrant and as full of determination as ever, and soon cracked successive fours, but he lost Ballance, who miscued a hook off Josh Little and was caught near the long-leg boundary.
Ballance made 23 and Zimbabwe were now in trouble at 99 for four in the 23rd over.
Burl joined Raza, and this was surely the partnership the success or failure of which would most likely decide the result of this match.
Burl played himself in and then began to attack.
Zimbabwe had fallen badly below the required run rate, but the pair, scoring at better than a run a ball, began to close the gap.
At the second drinks interval, after 32 overs, the score was 171 for four wickets – Raza had 41 and Burl 39.
Play continued, but a light drizzle was starting to fall with Zimbabwe still in arrears on Duckworth-Lewis.
At 175 for four, the umpires decided to take the players off the field and bring on the covers.
Play started again just before 5.15pm, and the Duckworth-Lewis regulations stated that Zimbabwe needed to score another 39 runs off only 22 balls in order to win.
This put the batters under great pressure, and they had to hit at everything without the chance to get their eyes in again.
Off the second ball, bowled by Adair, Raza went for a mighty pull, only to be caught on the midwicket boundary.
He had scored 43 runs off 45 balls, with a six and four fours.
Burl and Madande managed to score off most deliveries, and at one stage managed an all-run four, but not at the great rate required of them.
Now 28 runs were required off the last two overs.
Little bowled the penultimate over, and with a four and a six Burl reached his fifty and 15 runs were scored, leaving 13 to win off the final over, bowled by Hume.
Madande scored a single, and Burl hit a ball deep, needing two to keep the strike, but a fine throw had him run out for a gallant 58.
He had faced 41 balls, hit two sixes and six fours, and his dismissal effectively ended Zimbabwe’s hopes of victory.
Or so it appeared.
Evans came in and hit the next ball for a six over extra cover, but was then lbw next ball to a full-length delivery.
Five runs were needed from the last two balls.
Wellington Masakadza drove a single into the deep, leaving Madande to hit a boundary for victory off the final ball.
Madande proved to be up to the task, as he blasted that delivery with all his power to the midwicket boundary to give Zimbabwe an amazing victory.
He finished with 12 not out off nine balls, which proved to be just enough.
The Player of the Match award was obviously a very difficult choice, but it went eventually to Burl.
The second match of the series will be played at the same venue on Saturday.