Skipper happy after narrow win
Phil Simmons’ side gave themselves a real chance of qualifying for the T20 World Super 10’s with a sensational three wicket win over Zimbabwe.
William Porterfield’s men gave starts to North West pair Stuart Thompson and Andy McBrine while Andrew Poynter also earned the nod after a decent warm-up programme.
The Ireland skipper opted to bowl first on winning the toss and Zimbabwe’s game plan looked to be to get after the seamers early with Alex Cusack and Max Sorensen both in the sights.
Cusack fought back to give the Irish the breakthrough when he removed Sikandar Raza for 10 but the batting side went on to dominate the Power Play overs as skipper Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Mazakadza took the score to 56-1 after 6.
McBrine - what a revelation he has been in the past six months - was introduced into the attack straight away at that point and the spinner had an immediate impact when he did for Mazakadza for 21. New batsman Sean Williams looked up for a fight as he made 16 off 8 balls before McBrine tempted him out of his crease just long enough for Gary Wilson to effect a smart stumping and Ireland were back in the game.
Taylor remained dangerous however and kept company by Vusi Sibanda the runs continued to flow, however George Dockrell had overs in the bank and the spinner did a superb job in putting the brakes on as Zimbabwe tried to up the ante. Dockrell accounted for Sibanda for 16 but then put his side right back in the contest when he had the aggressive Taylor caught on the rope by Ed Joyce for 59 (6 fours and 2 sixes).
Elton Chigumbura landed a few meaty blows in the last over as Zimbabwe closed on 163 for 5- a decent performance with the ball from the Irish boys with Dockrell (2 for 18) McBrine (2 for 26) and Paul Stirling (0 for 24) worthy of special mention.
Porterfield and Stirling got Ireland’s reply off to a magnificent start, the Ireland openers posting an unbeaten 61 during the all-important first six overs. The introduction of Williams helped stem the flow a little and having reached 80, Ireland lost their first wicket when the left arm spinner tempted the skipper into one shot too many and was out for 31 (3 fours and a six).
Stirling moved through to an impressive half century however just as he looked set to lead his side to an easy win he mistimed one from Chatara and was out for 60 (9 fours and a six).
Ed Joyce and Andrew Poynter took Ireland to within 35 runs of a very comfortable victory before the latter fell for 23 and was followed back to the pavilion in the same Panyangara over by Gary Wilson for a duck.
Joyce and Kevin O’Brien took the target down to just 7 from 12 before the latter was caught on the boundary for a very valuable quick-fire 17. That dismissal sparked all sorts of panic in the ranks however- first Joyce bowled by the impressive Panyangara and then Sorensen run out as Ireland got themselves into an almighty tangle trying to get 4 runs from the last over.
Despite that the batsmen somehow got it down to one needed from the last ball and Stuart Thompson and Alex Cusack scrambled a bye when ‘keeper Taylor failed to hit the stumps.
A three wicket win for Ireland is all that will matter to Coach Simmons tonight but boy did they turn this into a job in the last half hour.
Ireland are back in action on Wednesday when they face UAE once again in Sylhet.
After the game this morning Porterfield spoke to Sentinel Sport’s cricket correspondent Barry Chambers.