Ireland on the brink after Zimbabwe thrashing

Paul Stirling was one of few Ireland players to come out with any credit
Paul Stirling was one of few Ireland players to come out with any credit

Ireland’s World Cup qualification hopes are hanging by a thread after a 107-run thrashing by Zimbabwe in Harare on Friday.

William Porterfield’s men need to finish in the top two at the Super Six stage to reach next year’s World Cup in England, but today’s defeat by the qualification tournament hosts leaves them in grave danger of missing out on the finals for the first time since 2003.

Ireland looked to be in control of the game when they reduced Zimbabwe to a perilous 87 for five and then 139 for seven, but Sikandar Raza struck a defiant unbeaten 69 from 83 balls to help the hosts recover to 211 for nine in their 50 overs.

In truth, Ireland rarely looked like reaching an achievable target as they made a desperate start to their reply. Porterfield lobbed softly to mid-wicket, Andrew Balbirnie edged behind and then crucially talisman Ed Joyce was stumped as he overbalanced to the second ball he faced.

Paul Stirling, the opener, briefly raised Irish hopes by standing tall amidst a flurry of wickets, with Niall O’Brien miscuing what should have been a regulation pull shot and then his brother Kevin edging left-arm spinner Seam Williams to slip.

Only during Stirling’s stand of 32 for the sixth wicket with Gary Wilson (15) did Ireland look in any way in contention. The pair were rebuilding well but from the last ball of the 27th over disaster struck as Stirling was run out for 41, sparking a collapse which saw Ireland’s last five wickets fall for 18 runs. Andy McBrine, who had earlier taken 2-42 with the ball, was unbeaten on nine as Ireland were dismissed with, criminally, more than 15 over unused.

Porterfield admitted Ireland must now win their last two Super Six games to stand any chance of making the 2019 finals in England.

“Having given ourselves 200 to chase any day of the week you’d take it, but we let ourselves down with the bat. We were very confident at half time, but in the second half we let ourselves down,” he said.

Ireland now face Scotland on Sunday and Afghanistan next Friday.