Zimbabwe – 266-7 in 50 overs (Craig Ervine 64, Sikandar Raza 59*, Brendan Taylor 49; Simi Singh 1/22, George Dockrell 1/23, Andy McBrine 1/26)
Ireland – 228 all out in 48.4 overs (Ian Porterfield 75, Harry Tector 50, Paul Stirling 32; Blessing Muzarabani 4/29, Wellington Masakadza 2/40, Sean Williams 2/42)
Zimbabwe won by 38 runs
Zimbabwe stormed to a 38-run victory over Ireland in the first game of the ICC Men’s World Cup Super League series at Stormont on Wednesday, thanks to a collective effort with bat and ball.
First, fifties from Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza lifted the tourists to a competitive total, before Blessing Muzarabani and Wellington Masakadza bowled superbly to stifle the chase.
Early rain delayed the start for half an hour and left the conditions damp, so both captains wanted to field first, but this time Ireland won the toss and sent Zimbabwe in to bat.
The visitors opened their batting with an experienced pair of Brendan Taylor and Regis Chakabva.
Chakabva scored only two before he edged a very good delivery from Craig Young to second slip and the first wicket went down at 14.
The Irish bowlers produced some good deliveries, but Taylor and Craig Ervine scored well off anything loose and moved the score along quite rapidly.
When he had 24, Taylor was given out caught at the wicket off Josh Little, but fortunately the DRS system is in use for this series on review it was seen that the ball hit his pad and not his bat.
The score reached 85 off only 14 overs when Sami Singh came on to bowl – Taylor swept his first delivery to be caught at deep square leg for 49.
The new batsmen did not find it easy, as Dion Myers made seven off 20 balls before he top-edged a sweep off Andy McBrine to be caught at the wicket; 101 for three after 20 overs.
Sean Williams had similar challenges until he finally got hold of Singh to hit him for two successive fours.
Ervine and Williams took the score to 150 in the 37th over, Ervine reaching his fifty off 83 balls, before Williams on 33 tried to hit a ball from Little to leg and was bowled.
Sikandar Raza soon got his innings underway with two fours and a leg-side six off George Dockrell.
Just as a good partnership seemed to be developing, Dockrell took the wicket of Ervine for 64, as he slashed a ball into the covers and was caught; 182 for five in the 42nd over.
Wessly Madhevere found his touch right away, and he and Raza were soon scoring off almost every ball.
Another promising partnership did not fully develop, though, as Madhevere (19 off 17 balls) drove a catch off Mark Adair to long-off; 226 for six in the 47th over.
Luke Jongwe hit his first ball for four and Raza reached his fifty in grand style off only 38 balls, hitting Adair for six over long-on.
Between them they plundered 40 runs off 19 balls before Jongwe was run out for 18 off only nine balls as he attempted a second run off the last ball of the innings.
Raza was unbeaten with 59 off 44 balls, with two sixes and five fours, and the Zimbabwe total was 266 for seven wickets after 50 overs.
Remarkably, of the Irish bowlers all six used took one wicket each.
The spinners Singh and McBrine did the best work, though, bowling 10 overs each and conceding only 22 and 26 runs respectively.
For Ireland, William Porterfield and Paul Stirling opened the batting against the bowling of Muzarabani and Richard Ngarava.
They scored 17 off the first three overs, but then the bowlers tightened up well and, backed by excellent fielding, made the batsmen struggle to score.
After eight overs the score was only 23.
Stirling in particular tried to push the score along, and he hit Jongwe for six over long-on, but then he fatally missed a sweep against Masakadza and was given out plumb lbw for 32; 64 for one in the 16th over.
Porterfield and Andy Balbirnie batted well together, moving the score along steadily, but at 89, in the 22nd over, Madhevere broke through with a beautiful delivery that spun in between Balbirnie’s bat and pad to clip his off stump when he had made 12.
Porterfield continued on his steady way and brought up his fifty off 79 balls.
Harry Tector was now his partner, and a dangerous partnership began to develop, both batting well.
Then Porterfield fatally miscued a pull off Jongwe and was caught at the second attempt by Myers at fine leg – he had made 75 off 110 balls, and Ireland were 167 for three in the 36th over.
Dockrell scored a brisk 11 before he swished at a stray ball outside his off stump from Muzarabani.
Zimbabwe’s appeal was turned down by the umpire, but their review revealed a thin edge, so the fourth wicket fell at 187 in the 38th over.
Two overs later Muzarabani struck again, as Singh (3) was caught by Madhevere at cover off a leading edge; 195 for five after 41 overs.
Ireland were now in some trouble, needing eight an over with five wickets left, and Tector on 46 was their key man.
Tector soon reached his 50 off 53 deliveries, but then Williams struck a great blow for Zimbabwe as Tector top-edged a slog-sweep to be caught by Muzarabani at short third man; 202 for six after 43 overs, and the required run rate now well over nine.
McBrine soon went for two, caught at the wicket off Williams – another appeal turned down by the umpire, but given out on referral; 206 for seven in the 45th over.
At 218 Muzarabani struck again, as Adair (6) skyed a catch to Ngarava, and in the following over Lorcan Tucker (14) drove a catch to Williams in the deep off Masakadza; 224 for nine.
The final wicket came in the next over, the 49th, when Little was caught by Ervine off Muzarabani for four, leaving Young not out with two.
Muzarabani’s fine opening spell was only rewarded late in the innings, when he crushed the Ireland run chase and finished with four wickets for 29 runs.
Masakadza and Williams finished with two wickets each.
Zimbabwe therefore go one-nil up in the three-match series.