Ireland gain early edge with four-wicket win over Zimbabwe

Big appeal by Ireland's Mark Adair against Zimbabwe. Pic by Rowland White.
Big appeal by Ireland's Mark Adair against Zimbabwe. Pic by Rowland White.
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Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie fired past the century mark but was keen to spread the praise as a four-wicket win secured the early advantage over Zimbabwe across the GS Holdings ODI Series.

Balbirnie posted 101, with Paul Stirling’s inning a fifth successive one-day international half-century - alongside wickets and runs from Mark Adair in the Bready success.

“It was enjoyable, a win is always that way,” said Balbirnie. “Zimbabwe is a good team but I thought the Zimbabwe score was about par or a bit below, as the outfield was very quick and it was as good a wicket as I’ve played on here.

“I think looking ahead we can learn from last series against Afghanistan when we went one up and then we didn’t perform in the second.

“We’ll be desperate to train well and put in another good performance in the next ODI.

“Today was a good day for us and a good day for the whole set-up.

“Paul and I batted well together, I think we really complement each other well – he strikes the ball so cleanly, and early on I just tried to rotate the strike.

“It’s a shame he got out when he did as we lost a bit of the momentum.

“But the fight shown by the guys coming in at the end was great – especially Mark and Shane there to finish the job off.

“Mark particularly was very impressive, he hits the ball as clean as anyone and I thought he was exceptional.

“He’s settling well into the squad and he gives us a bit of that X-factor as well.”

Adair, with his first ball, removed opener Tinashe Kamunhukamwe’s middle stump. He followed up with Zimbabwe skipper Hamilton Masakadza, leaving the visitors at 20-2 in the sixth over.

Craig Ervine then looked to take control and built stabilising partnerships with Brendan Taylor (12) and Sean Williams (28), before powering through to his third ODI century for Zimbabwe.

As good as Ervine’s innings was, when he eventually departed for 105 from 117 balls, the visiting side were on a precarious 210-7 in the 45th over.

Step up Ryan Burl – his first 10 runs came off 24 balls, but with the loss of Ervine he proceeded to smash four sixes and three fours, ending on 49*, scoring 39 runs off his last 18 balls.

Zimbabwe’s final total of 254-9 looked highly competitive.

For Ireland, Adair finished with his first four-wicket haul in ODIs and fellow Northern Knights all-rounder Shane Getkate, making his ODI debut, claimed 2-33. Lorcan Tucker also claimed his first two dismissals for Ireland in ODI cricket.

After the loss of James McCollum (21), Stirling and Balbirnie came together to put on a 105-run stand.

With the score on 133-1, Stirling (57) uncharacteristically played at a chest-high ball and feathered it through to the keeper. A further two wickets fell, and after being in cruise control, Ireland found themselves wavering on 150-4 in the 33rd over.

It was then that 22-year old wicketkeeper-batsman Lorcan Tucker came to the crease and, with Balbirnie, the pair put on 64 for the fifth wicket.

Tucker (23) fell hooking with the score on 214, and the Balbirnie put the jitters in the home crowd by running himself out after just bringing up his well-deserved fifth ODI century.

With 26 needed from 28 balls, Ireland suddenly had two new batsmen at the crease – Adair and Getkate. After a few wayward shots, the pair then knuckled down and powered Ireland home with nine balls to spare.