ZIMBABWE missed an opportunity to seal a rare series whitewash on home soil after Ireland capitalised on a poor batting performance by the hosts to secure a hard-fought two-wicket victory in the third one day international (ODI) at Harare Sports Club yesterday. BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

Ireland’s consolation victory meant Zimbabwe won the three-match ODI series 2-1 to overtake their opponents into 10th position on the ICC ODI rankings.

Despite the spirited efforts of Zimbabwe’s bowlers, who had the tough task of defending a paltry target of 187, Ireland dug deep to reach 189 for eight in 46,5 overs after a half century from Paul Sterling.

Credit should, however, go to the Zimbabwe’ bowling department, which managed to turn what promised to be a one-sided encounter into a closely fought battle.

With the exception of Taurai Muzarabani’s first over in ODI cricket, which went for 18 runs, the bowlers were impressive, making the Irish work harder for their win.

The youthful spinning pair of Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Wellington Masakadza bowled superbly, snaring two wickets each for 33 and 31 runs respectively.

Muzarabani, who had come in for the rested Tinashe Panyangara, rallied back after the jittery start to concede just 25 runs in his next nine overs and taking two crucial wickets in the process “I think I was a bit nervous in the first over,” he said after the match.

“I’ve waited a long time for this opportunity, so it was a case of nerves, but I think I managed to get back strongly in the next seven overs. We thought we had a chance to win the game. At one point, we had them on 161 for eight, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get the two wickets we needed.”

After being put in to bat first after Ireland won the toss, Zimbabwe, who had rested in-form batsman Craig Ervine, lost early wickets and never fully recovered, as they were bowled out for 187 in 49,2 overs.

Seamer Tim Murtagh was Ireland’s pick of the bowlers with his pace and aggression yielding career best figures of four for 32 in 10 overs.

The middle order duo of Sean Williams (51) and man of the series Sikandar Raza (50) scored half centuries to give the hosts hope of an unlikely recovery, but they both got out at crucial periods of the innings.

Zimbabwe’s innings had got off to a disastrous start, with Richmond Mutumbami cutting Craig Young’s short and wide delivery straight to William Porterfield at point to depart for the two-ball duck in the first over.

Chamu Chibhabha, who has been in brilliant form recently, also missed out, managing just four runs before he was caught at slip to leave the hosts in trouble on seven for two.

However, Williams, who was desperate for a big score, put on 49 runs for the third wicket with Chari (17), who had looked solid in defence before he was bowled by Murtagh in the 20th over.

Williams, who had been struggling with a knee injury, shared another crucial stand of 32 runs with Chigumbura (34), only to edge to the keeper soon after reaching his first half century in eight innings.

With Raza and Chigumbura’s stand of 71 for the fifth wicket also falling soon after the former had reached his half century, Zimbabwe went on to lose their next five wickets for just 23 runs.

A combination of poor shot selection and poor running between the wickets ensured there was not twist in the tail, as the hosts were bowled out for 187 which ultimately cost them the match.

Zimbabwe shift their attention to the limited overs series against Afghanistan which starts with the first ODI at Queens Sports Club on Friday, while Ireland will play Zimbabwe “A” in a four-day match, starting at Harare


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