Ireland – 141-9 in 20 overs (Harry Tector 47, Curtis Campher 27, George Dockrell 23; Wessly Madhevere 2/8, Luke Jongwe 2/23, Tendai Chatara 2/26)
Zimbabwe – 144-6 in 19 overs (Craig Ervine 54, Ryan Burl 30*, Innocent Kaia 23; Ben White 2/26, Barry McCarthy 2/32, Harry Tector 1/14)
Zimbabwe won by four wickets
A captain’s innings of 54 by Craig Ervine and some brilliant hitting at the death by Ryan Burl were the match-winners for Zimbabwe at a fully packed Harare Sports Club on Sunday as they beat Ireland by four wickets to clinch the Twenty20 international (T20I) series by two victories to one.
The home side, missing Sean Williams after he broke a finger in the field during the second game on Saturday, won the toss and sent the tourists in to bat first.
Zimbabwe made an excellent start, taking the first three Irish wickets for 19 runs in four overs.
In the first over, given to Wessly Madhevere, Ross Adair was caught in the covers by Ervine for one.
In the third over, Tendai Chatara had Stephen Doheny (2) driving a catch to mid-off and in the fourth a cunning yorker from Wellington Masakadza bowled out Andy Balbirnie for nine – 19 for three wickets.
Harry Tector and Curtis Campher effected a recovery, batting for almost 10 overs as they added 70 for the fourth wicket in good style.
At 89, Burl broke the partnership, as Curtis, having scored 27 off 28 balls, popped up a catch off the leading edge that was caught by the wicket-keeper Clive Madande.
In the following over, Tector moved down the pitch to Madhevere, only to york himself and be bowled for 47 off 38 balls.
Ervine caught Neil Rock (2) in the covers to make the score 100 for six in the 16th over.
There was a brief revival with some good hitting from George Dockrell (23 off 17 balls) and Mark Adair (14 off 10), but both were out at 131.
In the final over, Barry McCarthy hit his first ball from Luke Jongwe for six before he was caught in the deep off his second, as Ireland finished on 141 for nine wickets.
Madhevere took two wickets for eight runs in only two overs, while Chatara, Jongwe and Burl also took two each.
Tadiwanashe Marumani and Innocent Kaia opened the Zimbabwe innings with a required run rate of just over seven an over.
Marumani tried to attack the bowling, but could not time the ball well, and after struggling to five runs off 11 balls he drove a catch to extra cover off Barry McCarthy – 10 for one in the third over.
Kaia got the score moving with two successive hooks for four to long leg off Campher – with Ervine also driving a four, 13 runs came off his over to make the score 29 for one after five overs.
Fine bowling by Tector pinned the batters down and then broke the promising partnership between Kaia and Ervine, as Kaia drove a catch into the deep to go for 23 off 23 balls – 52 for two in the ninth over.
After 10 overs, the score was 57 for two and Zimbabwe were in danger of falling seriously behind.
The situation worsened when Madhevere (2) again failed with the bat, miscuing a reverse sweep off Ben White that was brilliantly caught by Balbirnie at slip.
Tony Munyonga made a fine start by driving his first ball for four and played some good strokes with Ervine but, with pressure from the required run rate increasing, he tried to clear the midwicket boundary when he had 13 and was caught off White – 92 for four in the 15th over.
Burl also hit a four off his first ball, and then the total passed 100 just before Ervine reached a fine fifty off 40 deliveries.
Now, 34 runs were needed off the last four overs.
As the tension mounted, Ervine miscued a hit on the off side and was caught for a fine 54, scored off 43 balls with six fours – 116 for five off 17 overs, and 26 needed off the last three overs.
Burl hit a huge six over long-on off Dockrell, and followed it with another, and then a four to square leg, to give Zimbabwe the advantage in the 18th over on 135 for five.
With seven runs needed in the last two overs, Madande played three balls from McCarthy without scoring, hit the fourth straight for four, and was then bowled by a perfect yorker.
A wide followed, but then Jongwe swung his bat at the final delivery of the over and the ball flew over the long-on boundary for six to win the match with a full over to spare.
Burl finished with 30 not out off only 11 balls, with two sixes and three fours.
He was named the Player of the Match and also Player of the Series, as his bowling had also done Zimbabwe useful service.
For the Ireland bowlers, there were two wickets each for McCarthy and White, but the man who slowed the scoring down and put Zimbabwe under pressure was Tector, who bowled his four overs for 14 runs and the wicket of Kaia.
Zimbabwe thus won the T20I series by two victories to one.
The three-match one-day international series between the two teams begins at the same venue on Wednesday.