Zimbabwe Women wilt as Ireland Women clinch ODI series
Ireland Women – 312-3 in 50 overs (Amy Hunter 121*, Gaby Lewis 78, Laura Delany 68; Josephine Nkomo 1/45, Loryn Phiri 1/51, Esther Mbofana 1/61)
Zimbabwe Women – 227-8 in 50 overs (Josephine Nkomo 66, Ashley Ndiraya 38, Mary-Anne Musonda 36; Laura Delany 2/32, Sophie McMahon 2/44, Jane Maguire 1/24)
Ireland Women won by 85 runs
Ireland Women batter Amy Hunter became the world’s youngest player to score an ODI century, hitting 121 not out on her 16th birthday as she inspired her side to an 85-run victory over Zimbabwe Women at Harare Sports Club on Monday.
With the result, the tourists sealed the four-match series by three wins to one.
Zimbabwe Women won the toss again and decided to field.
The Irish opening pair of Leah Paul and Gaby Lewis made a confident and steady start to their innings, with the latter the more fluent of the two.
They took the score to 40 in the ninth over before Paul (12) was bowled by Esther Mbofana.
Joined by Hunter, Lewis batted with increased confidence and ran to her fifty off 51 balls, which she celebrated with the first six of the series, hit off Tasmeen Granger.
This was immediately after the team hundred came up in the 21st over.
It appeared that Lewis was determined to score the century she had just missed on Saturday, but when she had reached 78 she was caught and bowled by Loryn Phiri.
She faced 86 balls and hit 10 fours and a six and following her dismissal the score was now 144 for two wickets in the 28th over.
Hunter was playing her first major innings of the tour, and she reached her fifty off 64 deliveries, in company with the captain, Laura Delany.
This was to prove a killer partnership from the home side’s point of view, as the pair completely mastered the bowling to put on 143 together in 18 overs for the third wicket.
Hunter reached her century off 110 balls, and Delany soon followed with her fifty off only 44 balls.
The partnership was only broken in the 47th over, when Mary-Anne Musonda finally took a catch off the bowling of Nkomo to dismiss Delany for 68, scored off 53 balls.
It was just 11 runs short of the Irish third-wicket partnership record and the score was now 287 for three wickets.
The 300 was soon passed, and the innings eventually closed after 50 overs at 312 for three, which is a new record total for the Ireland Women’s team, exceeding the 309 for two wickets they scored against Netherlands Women in 2005.
Hunter’s eventual score of 121 not out came off 127 balls, with eight fours, as she overtook the record previously held by India Women’s Mithali Raj, who scored 114 not out against Ireland Women at the age of 16 years and 205 days in June 1999.
Her marvellous effort is also a new record for Ireland Women, ahead of the 120 scored by Karen Young against Pakistan Women in 2000.
Orla Prendergast was not out with 12 off 10 balls when the innings ended.
All the Zimbabwe Women bowlers suffered at the hands of the visitors, with Nkomo being the most economical as she took one wicket for 45 runs in her 10 overs.
Faced with a virtually impossible target, Modester Mupachikwa was soon caught at the wicket for two off Jane Maguire in the second over of the innings, the score then being four.
However, Ashley Ndiraya, restored to her old position of opening batter, and Nkomo, also given a chance at the top of the order, proceeded to show wonderful fighting spirit as they defied the Irish bowlers and yet kept the runs coming quite freely as they took the score to exactly 100 without further loss in the 25th over.
At this point Ndiraya was finally prised out for 38, scored off 55 balls, caught off Celeste Raack to end an invaluable innings.
Nkomo soon afterwards reached her second fifty of the series off 83 balls, with Musonda as her new partner.
This proved to be another useful stand, as they took the score to 139 in the 31st over before Nkomo was caught off Cara Murray for 66.
Chiedza Dhururu, the former opening batter, was still unable to find her form today as she struggled to score four runs off 24 balls before being bowled by Delany.
Musonda had been batting fluently and well, but in the following over, the 39th, she was caught by Delany off Sophie MacMahon for 36, scored off 33 balls, and the score was now 170 for five wickets.
Precious Marange was soon out for one, caught off Delany – 178 for six, making it three wickets down in three overs.
Nyasha Gwanzura for a while led a recovery, scoring a brisk 25 off 26 balls and taking the score past 200 in the 45th over before being bowled by MacMahon at 204 for seven.
Her partner was Granger, who followed her out in the next over, bowled by Paul, for 18 off 19 balls; 212 for eight.
Audrey Mazvishaya and Loryn Phiri then successfully played out the rest of the innings, so the total finished on 227 for eight wickets, giving Ireland Women victory by a margin of 85 runs.