In a rare feat, Zimbabwe claimed their first one-day international win for nearly a year with a 38-run victory over Ireland in Belfast on Wednesday.
The Chevrons took a 1-0 lead in the three-match ODI series, adding crucial ICC Cricket World Cup Super League points to their tally.
Half-centuries from Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza saw the tourists post a competitive 266-7 from their 50 overs before Blessing Muzarabani took 4-29 with the ball to strangle Ireland s run chase.
Despite the win, Zimbabwe remain in last position on the World Cup Super League points table, but move level on points with the Netherlands and will hope for more in two more ODIs to come in the Northern Irish capital over the next week.
Muzarabani, Wellington Masakadza and Sean Williams took seven wickets for 41 runs in the final 10 overs as Ireland threw away a promising position after recovering from a slow start thanks to 75 from William Porterfield and Harry Tector s half-century.
“Our fielding and energy was off, which is disappointing and something that has to change before Friday,” said Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie.
“We started well with the bat and got ourselves into a good position to go on and win the game.”
Raza s 59 not out off 44 balls proved the match-winning innings after Ireland had put the squeeze on Zimbabwe in the middle overs.
Wessley Madhevere and Luke Jongwe also made important contributions down the order late in the innings at more than a run a ball.
Zimbabwe exhibited an all-round performance with half-centuries from Craig Ervine (64) and Sikandar Raza (59*) carrying the first innings total to 266/7 which was successfully defended by the bowlers by 38 runs led by Blessing Muzarabani who returned with 4/29. Despite William Porterfield (75) and Harry Tector’s (50) resistance, Ireland were bundled out for 228 runs in the 49th over.
Ireland opted to field in the first ODI against the visitors, Zimbabwe. Brendan Taylor alongside Regis Chakabva opened the innings but the partnership couldn’t sustain for long. Chakabva was the first to perish for 2 runs with Craig Young providing the breakthrough.
Zimbabwe captain, Craig Ervine joined Taylor in the middle for a hard-fought stand of 71 runs that they amassed in just 59 deliveries. However, Taylor was dismissed just one shy of a half-century by Simi Singh after he miscued an attempted sweep shot.
Building on the strong foundation of 85 in the 15th over, Sean Williams and Ervine battled for a 99-ball 49 run stand.
Ervine however continued his offence and registered his 15th ODI fifty. Just as Zimbabwe were into the final 10 overs, Ervine departed for a well-made 64(96) – caught at extra-cover by Andy Balbirnie off George Dockrell.
Sikandar Raza arrived at the crease with all guns blazing and pushed the first innings total to a competitive 266/7 with his 44-ball 59 alongside crucial contributions of 19 from Wessley Madhevere and 18 from Luke Jongwe.
In their reply, Ireland were off to a steady start courtesy of William Porterfield and Paul Stirling. The duo stitched together an opening partnership of 64 off 92 balls but Ireland lost Paul Stirling in the 16th over.
Thereafter, Harry Tector joined the crease with Porterfield for an impressive 71 runs partnership. But the loss of Porterfield after he scored 75 runs in 110 balls triggered a collapse hard to recover from.
However, Tector succumbed to pressure and fell for a well-made fifty off 55 balls as a leading-edge carried to short third man off Williams’ bowling.
In the final 10 overs, the equation stood at 75 runs required for Ireland to take the match with six wickets in hand but an implosion in the batting meant the hosts crumbled from 187/3 to 228/10 in the 49th over. — AFP/ICC