What better than a last ball cliff-hanger victory on St. Patrick’s Day for Ireland who defeated Zimbabwe by three wickets. Chasing 164 openers William Porterfield (31) and Paul Stirling (60) got Ireland off to a rollicking start,the pair notched 80 run opening stand. Both Porterfield and Stirling played aggressively upfront scoring at almost 10 runs per over in the power play and minimised the burden on middle order, which unfortunately for them almost collapsed at the crucial stage.
Captain Porterfield was the first of the openers to go when he was caught by Timycen Maruma at deep mid-wicket off slow left arm bowler Sean Williams. Paul Stirling scored a 29 ball fifty, his 5th in T20Is before fluffing one off Tendai Chatara which went high in the air only to be gulped down by Sikandar Raza at mid-on. Ed Joyce (22) and Andrew Poynter (23) looked to steer Ireland home comfortably but a dramatic 15th over by Tinashe Panyangara nearly changed the course of the game as he bowled a double wicket maiden over that left Ireland hovering on 129-4. Needing 35 runs off 30 balls,Kevin O’Brien played a salvaging 10 ball 17 run knock and shifted momentum back to Ireland before he handed Panyangara his third wicket.
Ireland needed seven runs of last two overs with five wickets in hand, but Medium fast bowler Tendai Chatara bowled economical 19th over giving only three runs off it. The action shifted to last six balls with Ireland requiring just four runs, Panyangara was handed the ball he gave two runs off first two balls, needing two from two Ireland lost successive wickets first Ed Joyce was bowled giving Panyangara his fourth wicket and next Sean Williams inflicted a direct hit from mid-off. Ireland needed one run off the last ball batsman Alex Cusack swung the bat but could not connect and ran for a single, wicketkeeper Brendon Taylor missed a shy at stumps and Ireland was home.
In the daylight Ireland won the toss and elected to bowl first on a Sylhet wicket which was hosting its first international game. Skipper Brendon (59) Taylor who scored his 5th T20I fifty held the Zimbabwean innings together. On the other end Hamilton Masakadza (21), Sean Williams (16) and Vusi Sibanda (16) kept supporting their skipper. Zimbabwe after 10 Overs were racing towards huge total but Irish spinnersAndy McBrine and George Dockrell who picked two wickets each curtailed them. Dockrell was economical and gave away just 18 runs off four overs while McBrine gave away 26 runs off his four overs.
In last overs Timycen Maruma (13*) and Elton Chigumbura (22*) down the order launched an attack on Irish bowlers and helped Zimbabwe stride to a respectable total 163-5. During the innings break Zimbabwe Captain Brendon Taylor mentioned they were well 20 runs short of their calculated total.
Man of the Match: Paul Stirling
Brief Scores: IRELAND 164-7 bt ZIMBABWE 163-5