Ireland slump to five-weekend defeat in opening T20 clash with Zimbabwe in Harare

Ireland lost their opening T20 international match against Zimbabwe in a low scoring game on Thursday, slipping to a five-wicket defeat in Harare.
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The host’s batters Gary Ballance and Sean Williams anchoring a tense chase of 115 and Ireland suffered an early slide after being put into bat, losing three wickets inside the powerplay as Ross Adair and Stephen Doheny fell cheaply on their international debuts.

Having been presented his cap by younger brother Mark before the start of play, Adair was bowled by Richard Ngarava for five, his opening partner Andrew Balbirnie following him back to the pavilion just five balls later.

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Doheny was caught behind flashing at a delivery from Ryan Evans that just took his outside edge and went through to the keeper, leaving Ireland 28-3 after six overs.

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie in action in the T20 opener against Zimbabwe on Thursday in Harare.Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie in action in the T20 opener against Zimbabwe on Thursday in Harare.
Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie in action in the T20 opener against Zimbabwe on Thursday in Harare.

Looking to counterattack, George Dockrell hit a six off Ryan Burl as he built a solid-looking partnership with Curtis Campher but was bowled the ball after his maximum by a googly which clattered into his middle stump.

A solid lower-order innings from Gareth Delany saw Ireland pass three figures, a good effort considering the score at the end of the powerplay, hitting two boundaries in his 24 off 20. His innings came to an end thanks to a sharp ball from Ngarava which bowled Delany who had been looking to attack.

Ireland’s innings came to an end with a stunning catch from Craig Ervine, diving backwards in the air to snatch a ball which looked set to sail over his head, dismissing Barry McCarthy for eight and ensuring Ireland did not bat their full quota of overs. The visiting side’s tenth-wicket went down with four balls to go in the innings and Zimbabwe were set a target of 115.

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However, a helter-skelter start to the innings threw a Zimbabwe victory into doubt, Ireland taking two wickets in the first two overs.

Harry Tector, bowling for the first time in T20Is, should have had a wicket off his very first ball had the cover fielder not put down a simple catch at cover off Ervine. Thankfully the reprieve wasn’t costly, as Ervine hit a lofted catch to Barry McCarthy running backwards at mid on three balls later to give Tector his first T20I wicket.

Another wicket in the following ensured Ireland remained in the frame as Tadiwanashe Marumani was plumb lbw to Mark Adair, leaving Zimbabwe 8-2 and the Ireland bowlers with their tails up. Wessly Madhevere was next to go, bowled by Tector after advancing down the track and looking to whack the off-spinner over the rope, the ball instead hitting his middle stump.

It was Ballance, however, who steadied the chase for Zimbabwe in his first match for the Chevrons following his decision to leave England and return to his country of birth. He scored 30 off 29, taking the target below 50 runs before he was stumped by Doheny off Mark Adair’s bowling.

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Williams then saw the home side safe with an unbeaten 34 off 30 despite the late wicket of Ervine adding extra drama into the chase.

Clive Madande hit the winning runs with two overs to spare, Zimbabwe winning by five wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Both sides will clash again at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday.