George Dockrell hit a final-ball four to secure victory for Ireland over Scotland in Zimbabwe today ahead of the start of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament this weekend.
The match featured a five-wicket haul for Boyd Rankin, a steadying innings of 79 by Andrew Balbirnie and a boundary off the last ball by George Dockrell as Ireland defeated their old rivals for the third time this year at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.
After Scottish captain Kyle Coetzer called correctly at the toss, the Scots chose to bat first under grey skies.
Early on, a devastating spell of new-ball bowling by Tim Murtagh (3-42, 9.3 overs) saw both openers back in the pavilion with only 12 runs on the board – one of these wickets being opposition skipper and dangerman Coetzer (5).
Four more wickets fell by the 16th-over mark, with the 6’7" paceman Boyd Rankin (5-38, 10 overs) causing havoc for the Scottish middle order.
Rankin’s pace and bounce were too much for many but, with Scotland teetering on 60-6, the partnership of Matthew Leask and George Munsey stepped up with with a rescue effort.
The pair first steadied and then dominated the bowling, putting on 156 runs for the seventh wicket with Leask (91 runs; 7 fours, 2 sixes) and Munsey (77 runs; 2 fours, 2 sixes) lifting the Scottish total to a competitive 239 (all out, 49.3 overs). Barry McCarthy was the other wicket taker for Ireland with 2-54 (10 overs).
The Ireland innings got off to a rocky start, losing opener Paul Stirling for 3. Stirling came in in magnificent form having scored 312 runs across his last two innings, but today he fell to the bowling of opening Scotland bowler Stuart Whittingham (2-36, six overs).
Next up was Andrew Balbirnie, who had scored 97, 44 and 37 in his last three innings. He once again proved the lynchpin, scoring 79 runs (100 balls; 4 fours, 1 six) and batting for 35 overs, and featuring in a 90-run partnership with Niall O’Brien.
As wickets fell around him, Balbirnie finally fell caught behind with Ireland still requiring 82 runs from the last 11.4 overs.
Enter George Dockrell, who had only 14 runs to his name in his last two innings on tour so far, but held his nerve in a match-winning innings of 47* (38 balls; 3 fours).
Starting with a 46-run partnership off seven overs with Gary Wilson (21 runs off 33 balls; 1 four), Dockrell then shepherded the tail through the last overs.
The loss of Wilson left Ireland with 38 runs to win off 27 balls, but a cameo innings by tail-ender Boyd Rankin (12* off 5 balls; 2 fours) and a remarkable 11 runs taken from the last over – including a boundary of the last ball by Dockrell – secured a dramatic victory for Ireland.
Ireland now head into the first competitive match of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament with momentum. The first match on Sunday 4 March 2018 will be against the Netherlands at the Old Hararians Ground in Harare.
IRELAND v SCOTLAND, 50-over match, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
Scotland 239 all out (49.3 overs; M Leask 91, G Munsey 77; B Rankin 5-38, T Murtagh 3-42)
Ireland 243-8 (50 overs; A Balbirnie 79, G Dockrell 44*; T Sole 2-53)
Ireland XI won by two wickets