A disciplined performance in the field saw Ireland cruise to a seven-wicket win over Zimbabwe in the third and final ODI (One-Day International) of the DafaNews series.
After the second ODI of the series was abandoned due to rain, the bad weather threatened to disrupt the occasion once more – the toss was delayed and the match eventually began at 12:45pm as a 42-overs-per-side affair.
Ireland made just the one change from the second ODI, with Shane Getkate replacing Craig Young. Barry McCarthy was unavailable due to a niggle.
Andrew Balbirnie won the toss, chose to bowl first, and didn't have to wait too long for his side to make a breakthrough.
Brendan Taylor – playing his 284th and final international match for Zimbabwe – looked to take the attack to Josh Little but was bowled by an inswinger for seven in the fourth over. Little’s next over saw him celebrating once more; another full swinging delivery rattled the stumps to send Regis Chakabva on his way.
Skipper Craig Ervine led the rebuild for his side, striking seven fours and one six as he reached 57, his 20th half-century in ODI cricket. But there was little support from elsewhere: Wessley Madhevere gifted an easy catch to Paul Stirling at mid-on off the bowling of Shane Getkate to depart for a 26-ball 16, and Sean Williams had his off stump pegged back as Andrew McBrine fired in a sharp off-break. Ervine’s departure from the first ball of the 25th over – McBrine found the outside edge with another fine delivery – left Zimbabwe in serious trouble at 99-5 before rain intervened once more just moments later.
When play resumed for a 38-overs-per-side match, Ireland continued to land regular blows: Sikandar Raza was run out by Balbirnie; Ryan Burl was bowled by Simi Singh; Luke Jongwe couldn’t survive a review as the irrepressible McBrine fired one into the pads; and Blessing Muzarabani edged behind to Lorcan Tucker off Little’s bowling as Ireland went upstairs once more to overturn the on-field decision. From the final ball of the 34th over, Zimbabwe’s resistance came to an end on 131 as Singh bowled Richard Ngarava.
The start of Ireland’s chase was delayed by the returning rain and, once again, the equation shifted: the match was reduced to 35 over per innings, with Ireland chasing 126. A quiet first six overs resulted in 20 runs and no wicket, but Stirling got his innings moving in the seventh with back-to-back fours and a thumping six down the ground off the bowling of Jongwe.
The rain forced another stoppage in the eighth over, leading to a new target of 118 from 32 overs, but Stirling continued to fire. While his partner William Porterfield fell for 16 to Muzarabani, Stirling kept the scoreboard ticking over (five fours and two sixes featured in his final summary) as he moved to 43. While the opener fell with 29 runs still required, Balbirnie kept the chase under control before he was dismissed himself with five runs to go.
It was up to Harry Tector to wrap up proceedings in the 23rd over, helping the hosts level the series at 1-1 and secure 10 Cricket World Cup Super League points. For his fine three-wicket haul, McBrine was named Player of the Match while Porterfield – the leading run-scorer across both sides after three matches – was named Player of the Series.
Ireland v Zimbabwe, 3rd ODI DafaNews Cup, Stormont, 13 September 2021
Zimbabwe 131 (34 overs; C Ervine 57; A McBrine 3-26, J Little 3-33)
Ireland 118-3 (22.2 overs; P Stirling 43, A Balbirnie 34; W Masakadza 1-9)
Ireland won by 7 wickets (DLS) (Series drawn 1-1)