A dramatic five-run win by Ireland sealed a series win over Zimbabwe and saw them win their first home series against any side since 2014, and first-ever home series against a full member nation.
After losing the toss and being sent in to bat first on a low, green wicket, Ireland’s opening pair of Paul Stirling and James McCollum batted superbly, registering their first century-stand as a partnership and laying a solid platform for the home side.
McCollum was the first to fifty – his first international half-century — while Stirling’s half-ton came up a few balls later. For Stirling this was remarkably his sixth consecutive score over 50, and during his innings he brought up his 4,000th run in one-day internationals for Ireland. He is the first Irishman to achieve the milestone and, until his dismissal, looked in imperious form.
McCollum (73) continued batting on, looking increasingly confident – flashing boundaries over cover and gliding another through a vacant slip cordon. However, with the Irish side looking comfortable on 140-1 the Zimbabwean bowlers, led by Solomon Mire fought back. Three wickets fell for 14 runs, and the previous well-paced scoreline looked a little more precarious at 154-4.
The arrival of Lorcan Tucker saw an innings stabilising partnership with captain William Porterfield (20), but with the Irish side looking to push on the scoring rate, Porterfield fell.
From there on there was only one story — Tucker’s better than run-a-ball half-century. While wickets fell around him, threatening to leave Ireland with a score of just over 200, Tucker hit his straps. He hit seven boundaries in a innings of great maturity, steering the home side to a competitive 242-9 — only falling on the second-last ball of the innings trying to hit out.
For Zimbabwe, the recalled Solomon Mire, who missed out in Bready, took 4-43 and looked dangerous throughout, but the 2-28 from 8 overs by spinner Sikander Raza probably did more to pacify the Irish side and build pressure on the middle order to great effect.
The Irish defence with ball in hand could hardly have started any better. A wicket to Tim Murtagh (5-21) in his first over, followed by two more in his third had Zimbabwe staring down the barrel at 14-3 in the fifth over.
Craig Ervine (43) and Sean Williams consolidated the innings, until Shane Getkate removed Ervine, feathering a ball through to Tucker behind the stumps. Tucker was the most relieved man on the field, having grassed a chance off Ervine just ten balls prior.
Williams and Sikander Raza then put on 57 runs to get Zimbabwe back in the hunt, but then it was the experienced duo of Rankin and Murtagh who made key breakthroughs. Rankin first dismissed the dangerous Raza who compiled 31 off 22 balls, and then the reintroduction of the ageless Murtagh saw the end of Williams for 58.
The last 15 overs then swung dramatically, with both sides seeming to get the upper hand at times. A dangerous 69-run stand between Ryan Burl (53) and Donald Tiripano (33) threatened to take the game away from the home team, but nerves of steel by the bowlers and some excellent fielding first saw Murtagh remove Tiripano to claim his first ever five-wicket haul for Ireland, and then Burl was run out attempting a tight second run.
In the end needing 14 off the last over was too much for Zimbabwe and Mark Adair, bowling the final over, bowled several well-directed full-length deliveries that restricted the ability for the batters to swing at the ball. Zimbabwe finished on 237-9, giving Ireland the win and clinch the series 2-0 with one to play. — RTÉ Sport.