Specials – Best of the ODIs: Ireland v Zimbabwe

  Ireland and hosts Zimbabwe lock horns in a crucial Super Six game of the World Cup Qualifier at the Harare Sports Club today. Ever since their first meeting at the 2007 World Cup, the two sides have shared a closely-fought rivalry, with as many as eight of the nine ODIs between them either going down to the wire or ending with a very narrow margin.

  Zimbabwe have won five of the nine ODIs to Ireland’s three, with the first game between the two teams at the 2007 World Cup ending in a tie. As the potentially exciting and high-stakes clash gets underway, here is a look back at five of the most nail-biting ODIs from this evenly-matched fixture.

World Cup Group Stage, Kingston, 2006-07

  Ireland signalled their arrival on the big stage by holding Zimbabwe to a dramatic tie in their first World Cup match. The men in green lost William Porterfield in the first over after being put in to bat, but at the other end, the left-handed Jeremy Bray was looking in fine touch. When Ireland fell to 89/5 in the 22nd over, they were in danger of being bowled out. However, Bray remained undeterred.

  Bray went on to carry his bat, ending with a superb 115* from 137 balls as Ireland finished at a respectable 221/9. In reply, Zimbabwe looked to be marching to victory at 203/5 in the 44th over, thanks to the efforts of Vusi Sibanda (67) and Stuart Matsikenyeri (73*). But Ireland pulled things back with tight bowling and excellent fielding – there were three run-outs in the last seven overs.

  It all boiled down to the last over – to be bowled by Andrew White – with Zimbabwe needing nine with one wicket left. Matsikenyeri was up to the task, as he took five in three to bring down the equation to four from three. Ed Rainsford sneaked a single, before Matsikenyeri scored two more. With one needed from the last ball, Rainsford was run out while charging towards the striker’s end.

    Ireland’s Andrew White collides with Zimbabwe’s Ed Rainsford during the pulsating denouement of the World Cup clash between the two teams in 2007 (source – gettyimages) 

First ODI, Harare, 2010-11

  The first bilateral ODI between the two teams went down to the last ball. Gary Wilson scored 69 to take Ireland from 22/4 to 200 (Ed Rainsford 4/23). Zimbabwe’s reply revolved around Tatenda Taibu’s 62, but Ireland kept chipping away. Six runs were needed off the last over, which became one off the last ball. Fittingly, it was a six from Rainsford that secured Zimbabwe’s two-wicket win.

World Cup Group Stage, Hobart, 2014-15

  Ireland kept their cool to eke out a last-gasp five-run win with three balls remaining in a see-sawing high scorer at the 2015 World Cup. This win enabled them to stay alive, while Zimbabwe got knocked out. Ireland piled up 331/7 after being inserted, with Ed Joyce (112 from 103 balls) and Andrew Balbirnie (97 from 79) doing the bulk of the scoring through a rapid stand of 138 for the third wicket.

  Zimbabwe thus needed to pull off the highest successful chase in World Cup history. They slipped to 74/4, but captain Brendan Taylor (121 from 91 balls) and Sean Williams (96 from 83) staged a gallant fightback with a fifth-wicket stand of 149. It all came down to an equation of seven from the last over, in which Alex Cusack (4/32) took the last two wickets to break Zimbabwean hearts.

First ODI, Harare, 2015-16

  As was the case five years ago, Zimbabwe held their nerve to win by two wickets. Gary Wilson, who came in at 54/3, scored 70 to carry Ireland to 219/8. Sean Ervine led the Zimbabwean response with 60, but a wobble saw the score fall from 124/3 to 171/7. Man of the Match Sikandar Raza stayed put though, scoring 60*, before Tinashe Panyangara hit the winning four with six balls to spare.

Third ODI, Harare, 2015-16

  Although the series was lost, Ireland managed to pull off a consolation win by two wickets. Tim Murtagh (4/32) starred for the tourists, as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 187 despite fifties from Sean Williams (51) and Raza (50). Paul Stirling scored a measured 50, but Ireland collapsed from 94/2 to 160/8. It was left to Andy McBrine and Murtagh to see their side home with 19 balls remaining.

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