Zimbabwe edge Ireland in thriller to end T20I series on a high
Zimbabwe – 124-4 in 20 overs (Craig Ervine 67*, Dion Myers 26, Milton Shumba 14*; Mark Adair 3/23, Josh Little 1/16)
Ireland – 119 all out in 20 overs (Neil Rock 22, Paul Stirling 19, Shane Getkate 15; Luke Jongwe 3/29, Donald Tiripano 3/31, Richard Ngarava 1/14)
Zimbabwe won by five runs
Luke Jongwe and Donald Tiripano had a great day with the ball as Zimbabwe clinched a five-run victory over Ireland in the fifth and final T20I that went all the way to the final delivery at Bready on Saturday.
The tourists again won the toss and this time round decided to bat first, with Tinashe Kamunhukamwe replacing Tadiwanashe Marumani as opening batsman, along with Wessly Madhevere on his 21st birthday.
Kamunhukamwe did not last long, though, as in the second over he was brilliantly caught at short cover by Andy Balbirnie off the bowling of Mark Adair.
Off the next delivery Regis Chakabva was trapped lbw by Adair and Zimbabwe were three for two wickets in the second over.
Craig Ervine then set about retrieving the situation with Madhevere, and when Shane Getkate came on to bowl he hit him for a straight four and a six over midwicket off successive deliveries.
However, Madhevere fell for nine, as he tried to pull Josh Little but skyed a catch to midwicket, making the score 34 for three after seven overs.
Dion Myers came in and soon pulled Andy McBrine for a big six over midwicket.
After 10 overs the score was 51 for three wickets.
The pair did a fine job to restore the innings, and Ervine reached his fifty in the 15th over off 42 balls.
In the following over, however, Myers miscued a slog-sweep off Adair to be brilliantly caught by Little for 26, scored off 23 balls – the score was now 91 for four.
Milton Shumba now came in and the new pairing tried to add runs quickly, but they could only manage ones and twos, with an occasional four.
After 20 overs the score was 124 for four wickets, with Shumba on 14 and Ervine, who played a fine rescue innings, 67 off 57 balls – he hit a six and seven fours.
Adair was again the best of the Irish bowlers, with three wickets for 23 runs off his four overs, while Little was the most economical, with figures of one for 16.
Blessing Muzarabani and Richard Ngarava opened the bowling for Zimbabwe against the usual pairing of Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien.
Stirling was soon underway, pulling Jongwe’s first ball for six over square leg when he came on to bowl the third over.
However, later in the over Jongwe produced a fine ball that bowled O’Brien for seven to make the score 17 for one.
Tiripano came on for the fourth over and he struck by moving a ball away off the pitch for Balbirnie to edge to the keeper for four.
The fifth over from Jongwe brought two successive fours to Stirling, but the following delivery he drove to be caught by Shumba at extra cover for 19, to make Ireland 30 for three wickets.
Without addition, Harry Tector (0) edged a ball from Tiripano to slip and Ireland were in trouble at 30 for four wickets.
William McClintock came in and hit two successive fours to get the score moving again.
However, he had scored only nine before he miscued a shot off Ngarava to point, where Madhevere took the catch; 51 for five in the eighth over.
Neil Rock and Getkate came to the rescue with some judicious batting, and Ireland pulled ahead again.
They put on 36 together before Wellington Masakadza trapped Getkate lbw for 15, at 87 for six.
Then Jongwe returned to pick up his third wicket, as Rock miscued a pull and was caught by the substitute fielder Marumani at deep square leg for the highest score of 22 and Ireland were now 91 for seven in the 14th over.
McBrine and Adair were now in, and played with great caution, trying to score mainly in singles, until 23 runs were needed off the last three overs.
Two singles were added in three balls off Tiripano, until McBrine, feeling the pressure, attempted a big hit but holed out to Marumani at deep square leg for eight; 104 for eight.
Four runs and a wicket came off the over, leaving Ireland needing 19 runs off the last two overs with only two wickets in hand.
Off the first ball of the next over, from Jongwe, Adair was too eager for a quick single and was run out for eight by the bowler, making the score 106 for nine.
Craig Young, after two dot balls, took his life in his hands and hit a straight six.
He then hit two twos, leaving Ireland needing nine runs off the final over and Zimbabwe one wicket.
Ngarava bowled the final over: Little scored two off the second ball, followed by a single off the fourth.
Six runs needed off the final two deliveries: Young missed them both, and in attempting a single for a leg-bye off the last ball, Little was run out for three by Ngarava, leaving Young not out with 11, Ireland all out for 119 and Zimbabwe winners by five runs.
Jongwe and Tiripano finished with three wickets apiece, conceding 29 and 31 runs respectively, while Ngarava again showed his skill as a death bowler as his four overs cost only 14 runs for one wicket.
The fine victory was some compensation for Zimbabwe, who lost the series by three wins to two.