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Zimbabwe fall short as Ireland square series

Ireland – 294-7 in 50 overs (Stephen Doheny 84, Harry Tector 75, Paul Stirling 45; Tendai Chatara 3/51, Brad Evans 2/66, Ryan Burl 1/43)

Zimbabwe – 248 all out in 47.3 overs (Gary Ballance 52, Innocent Kaia 51, Ryan Burl 41; Josh Little 4/38, Mark Adair 2/39, Graham Hume 2/52)

Ireland won by 46 runs

Innocent Kaia, Chamu Chibhabha, Gary Ballance and Ryan Burl all scored 40 runs or more for Zimbabwe in the second One-Day International (ODI) at Harare Sports Club on Saturday, but fine batting by Ireland had set them a task they could not exceed.

Ireland’s total of 294 for seven wickets set Zimbabwe a target that in the end they failed to reach, and were bowled out for 248, to give the tourists a fine victory by 46 runs.

Both teams played without their regular captains, with Craig Ervine suffering from a finger injury and Andy Balbirnie out of the series after suffering concussion from his injury in the first match.

There was an excellent batting pitch prepared for this game, but Sikandar Raza as Zimbabwe’s captain for the match decided to put Ireland in on winning the toss.

Ireland, very determined after their defeat in the first match, made the running from the start with a brilliant opening partnership between their acting captain Paul Stirling and Stephen Doheny, promoted in his second ODI.

Stirling made most of the early runs, but then Doheny grew in confidence and caught up with his partner.

With some fine batting against some bowling of mixed quality, the pair put on 104 runs in 21 overs before Stirling tried to pull a short ball from Brad Evans, only to be caught by Ballance on the long-leg boundary.

Murray Commins, in next, scored only six before he cut another short ball from Evans to deep backward point, where Ballance again took the catch.

There followed another good partnership between Doheny and Harry Tector before the former skyed a ball from Burl to mid-off, and again Ballance was in the right place – a rare occurrence of the same outfielder taking catches for each of the first three wickets to fall in an innings.

The score was now 182 for three in the 36th over.

Tector continued to attack the bowling in fine style, but Lorcan Tucker made 11 before he skyed a big hit from Richard Ngarava to backward point, where this time it was held by Chamu Chibhabha, playing his first ODI since 2020.

Tector, the danger man, reached 75 off 61 balls before he was caught near the midwicket boundary by Burl from a big leg-hit off Tendai Chatara.

Four balls later the new man, Curtis Camphor, gave Ballance his fourth catch, this one at mid-off from a miscued drive off Chatara.

Ireland were now 260 for six wickets in the 47th over.

George Dockrell was now the main danger man, but in the 49th over he skyed a hit almost directly upwards – Chatara ran down the pitch and was fortunate to hold the return catch as he collided with the wicket-keeper Clive Madande, who had the same idea.

Andy McBrine with eight and Mark Adair with six, both not out, did well to score 13 runs off the last seven deliveries, but Ireland were no doubt disappointed not to have topped 300 after their excellent start – their score was 294 for seven wickets.

Chatara was the most successful bowler with three wickets for 51, as all the six bowlers used went for more than five runs an over.

Zimbabwe suffered an early shock when they batted.

Innocent Kaia took a single off the first ball of the innings, bowled by Josh Little, but Tadiwanashe Marumani missed the second, a straight delivery, and was out lbw.

Chibhabha came in to join Kaia, and the two of them went after the bowling in good style.

They took the score to 90 in the 20th over, but then Chibhabha went for a lofted drive off McBrine without enough force behind it and was very well caught by Graham Hume for 40, scored off 55 balls with four fours.

Soon after being joined by Ballance, Kaia reached his fifty off 66 balls.

He did not last long, though, as he got in the wrong position to hit a ball through the covers and was caught by Stirling off Little for 51 off 70 balls, with a six and three fours – 102 for three in the 23rd over.

Raza joined Ballance in a vital partnership, which was just developing when the stand-in skipper got a top edge on a pull against Adair and skyed a catch to be gone for 25 off 21 balls, having hit three fours.

Zimbabwe were now in some trouble at 140 for four in the 29th over, as Burl joined Ballance, the last two recognised and experienced batters in the team and not halfway to their target yet.

Burl nearly went straight away, as he miscued a pull to mid-on, but the chance was dropped.

The partnership then flourished, and the 200 was passed in the 39th over.

But at 207 the partnership was broken by cricket’s cruellest law, as Ballance drove a ball from Camphor straight back down the pitch.

Camphor tried to stop it, but accidentally deflected the ball into the stumps at the bowler’s end, where Burl, backing up as he should have been, was out of his crease and therefore run out.

He had scored a fine 41 off 39 balls with five fours and at this stage Ballance was on 44.

In the end, this unfortunate dismissal proved to be the final turning point of the match.

Zimbabwe needed 86 runs to win in the last 10 overs as Madande joined Ballance.

At 219 the sixth wicket fell, as Little produced a superb delivery that moved away from Madande (6) and shattered his stumps.

Evans soon got a few runs, but there was a mix-up between the two, and Ireland missed what should have been an easy chance to run him out.

Soon Ballance reached his fifty off 63 balls, but Evans did not last much longer – he has scored 14 off 12 balls when he pulled a short ball from Hume and was very well caught by Tector running in to midwicket.

Zimbabwe were now 235 for seven in the 45th over and their hopes had almost gone.

Ngarava came in, scored two, swung at a ball from Little and was clean bowled at 238 for eight.

Ballance did his best, but he now had to take serious risks to keep Zimbabwe in the game.

A desperate drive off Hume was caught by Little at long-off, and he was gone for a gallant 52, scored off 67 balls with two fours.

At 242 for nine in the 47th over, the result was now certain, and completed when Nyauchi was bowled by Adair for seven, leaving Chatara not out with two.

The total was 248, and 15 balls were left unbowled.

Ireland’s match-winner with the ball was Little, who took four wickets for 38 in his 10 overs, and he was the winner of the Player of the Match award.