Ireland – 114 all out in 19.2 overs (Gareth Delany 24, Curtis Campher 20, Stephen Doheny 15; Ryan Burl 3/29, Wellington Masakadza 2/13, Tendai Chatara 2/17)
Zimbabwe – 118-5 in 18 overs (Sean Williams 34*, Gary Ballance 30, Clive Madande 18*; Mark Adair 2/12, Harry Tector 2/17, Barry McCarthy 1/14)
Zimbabwe won by five wickets
A dashing unbroken sixth-wicket partnership between Sean Williams and Clive Madande took Zimbabwe home by five wickets in a rather tight T20 international match against Ireland at Harare Sports Club on Thursday.
The home side won the toss and put the tourists in to bat.
Ireland’s innings never really got going against fine bowling from Zimbabwe.
In the second over, Ross Adair was bowled for five, taking a slog against a good straight ball from Richard Ngarava, and in the third the captain, Andy Balbirnie, was caught in the covers for five off the bowling of Tendai Chatara, which made the score 12 for two.
Stephen Doheny played some forceful strokes and was beginning to look dangerous when he was caught at the wicket by Madande off Brad Evans for 15 off 13 balls.
Harry Tector struggled to score and was eventually bowled for five by Ryan Burl at 38 for four in the ninth over.
Curtis Campher led a revival, hitting the ball well to score 20 off 20 balls before he was caught at the wicket off Wellington Masakadza.
Two more wickets fell quickly, and at 74 for eight wickets in the 15th over the Ireland innings seemed to be as good as over.
However, there was then something of a revival, as Gareth Delany played some fine strokes, managed to farm the bowling well, and with Fionn Hand took the score past 100 before he was bowled swinging at a ball from Ngarava in the 19th over – 104 for nine.
Delany scored 24 off 20 balls, which proved to be the highest score of the innings.
The last pair swung the bat gamely and took the score to 114 before Barry McCarthy was brilliantly caught by Craig Ervine at extra cover.
Ireland were all out with four deliveries left unbowled.
Burl took three of the wickets, going for 29 runs in his four overs.
Chatara, Ngarava and Masakadza claimed two each, with Masakadza the most economical, going for only 13 runs off his four overs.
Zimbabwe were in a position from which they could chase down their target without undue pressure, but they too were to suffer from a shaky start.
Ervine was dropped at extra cover from the first ball of the innings, drove a four and then skyed the last ball of the first over bowling behind the bowler Tector, where it was very well caught by the fielder running back.
Tadiwanashe Marumani then hit Mark Adair’s first ball for four before being out lbw to the second, a marginal decision, leaving Zimbabwe reeling at eight for two wickets.
Wessly Madhevere was joined by Gary Ballance, making his début for the Zimbabwe team, and the pair settled into a useful partnership of 43, before Madhevere spoiled his effort by making a wild stroke at a straight ball from Tector to be bowled for 16 off 22 balls – 43 for three in the eighth over.
Williams joined his fellow left-hander at the crease, and after 10 overs the score was 53 for three, with the Ireland bowlers putting in a steady performance.
Ireland missed a chance to run out Williams after a brilliant stop in the field when he had 13, but only a few balls later Ballance slashed at a ball from Adair to be out for 30 – 71 for four in the 13th over.
This brought in the third successive left-hander, Burl, and the scoring rate began to increase as Williams had his eye well in and started to dominate the bowlers.
Burl played a couple of good strokes to score eight before he hit a catch straight to midwicket, with the score now 90 for five in the 16th over.
Madande came in next and swept a boundary that took the score past 100, as the partnership flourished.
The end came quickly now, when Madande hit a full toss through the covers for four, and then followed it with a big hit wide of mid-on for another boundary to take Zimbabwe home with two overs to spare.
The final score was 118 for five wickets, with Williams on 34 off 30 balls, the highest score of the match, and Madande 18 off 10 balls – their 28-run partnership came off 16 balls.
Tector and Mark Adair both took two economical wickets for Ireland, for only 17 and 12 runs respectively, while the other bowlers were much more expensive.
Zimbabwe take a one-nil lead in the three-match series, with the second match to be played at the same venue on Saturday.