Ireland 331 for 8 (Joyce 112, Balbirnie 97, Chatara 3-61) beat Zimbabwe 326 (Taylor 121, Williams 96, Cusack 4-32) by five runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Ireland hung on like they would for dear life, beating Zimbabwe by five runs in one of the most thrilling finishes in this World Cup. After 657 runs and 17 wickets, a game of fluctuating fortunes came to an end when Ireland's captain William Porterfield ran hard from long-on to take the final catch of Tawanda Mupariwa, who had almost clinched it for Zimbabwe with two fours and a six in the penultimate over.
Zimbabwe, whose campaign is now effectively over, hung their heads low as they walked off, but they would be proud of themselves for almost pulling off only their second 300-plus chase.
As for Ireland, they are now fourth in Group B with six points, behind Pakistan on net run-rate, but they would be especially glad that they have found one bowler other than George Dockrell to help out their one-dimensional attack. Bellerive Oval's first match at the World Cup was a predictable bat-off, but Alex Cusack held his own, taking four wickets and giving away just 32 runs at 3.36 per over.
The match was lit by a pair of lively innings from either side. Ed Joyce's 112 earned him the Man-of-the-Match award, and Andy Balbirnie's 97 ultimately overpowered Brendan Taylor's 121 and a heroic 96 from Sean Williams.
Set a steep 332 for victory, Zimbabwe looked to be down and out when Taylor exited in the 38th over, but Williams brilliantly orchestrated the chase with Regis Chakabva. He never let the run-rate rise above the nine per over, but once he was dismissed in the 47th over, Ireland once again got one foot on the door.
Williams, having survived a run-out attempt already, heaved Kevin O'Brien towards midwicket where John Mooney took the catch over his head. The TV umpires were asked if Mooney's left boot had clipped the boundary. Eight replays were inconclusive, but by that time Williams had already gone into the dressing room and the umpires signaled the catch stood.
Enter Mupariwa. With 26 needed off 12 balls, he hammered two fours and a six, his first since his ODI debut, off Kevin O'Brien, leaving Zimbabwe with just seven needed off the last over.
But keeping with the frenetic nature of the last few overs, there would be one final twist. Cusack bowled Chakabva first ball with an off-cutter, meaning Ireland required just one more wicket. Tendai Chatara inside-edged the second ball away for a single, and the equation was six needed off four. Mupariwa was just one big hit away from a famous win, but off the third ball, he could only find elevation rather than distance, as Porterfield successfully held on to his third grab of the game, at long-on, sparking wild celebrations from his team-mates.
Not many would have expected such an end when Zimbabwe made a circumspect start to the chase with the openers Chamu Chibhaba and Sikandar Raza falling five balls within each other. Stirling dived to his left to complete an excellent catch at first slip to dismiss Raza, while Porterfield ran back from point to safely pouch Chibhaba's skier in the ninth over. The Zimbabwe innings fell into more trouble when Hamilton Masakadza tickled to Gary Wilson in Kevin O'Brien's first over.
The experiment of promoting Solomon Mire to No. 3 failed as he was caught at point for just 11, minutes after he was dropped at cover by O'Brien. Zimbabwe's required run-rate touched eight per over in the 20th over, leaving too much on the plate of Williams and Taylor.
When Taylor had gotten off the mark, he became the fourth Zimbabwean to reach 5,000 ODI runs. He kept finding the boundaries from the early stages, striking Kevin O'Brien through mid-off twice, as well as midwicket and mid on. Andy McBrine was cleared over midwicket for the first six of the innings, after which came the slap over midwicket off Paul Stirling's slow offspin. Taylor reached his fifty in the 24th over, off just 38 balls, and responded with four more boundaries. He followed it up by smacking Stirling just over a diving John Mooney at long-on for a second six.
In the 35th over, Taylor reached his seventh ODI hundred, coming off only 79 balls. In Dockrell's last over, he piled into the left-arm spinner with two sixes and a four through wide mid-on. The 18-run over spoiled the figures of Ireland's best bowler, who ended his 10 overs giving away 56 runs for just one wicket.
Taylor was finally dismissed for 121 when Cusack duped him with a slower ball, which was easily caught by O'Brien. It was only the second time in his ODI career that Taylor was dismissed after making a hundred.
Williams remained unfazed and struck seven fours and three sixes in his 83-ball knock, hacking over square-leg and midwicket with equal aplomb. He ran Ireland ragged with his own pace between the wickets, and completed 2000 ODI runs in the 25th over. He ended up making his highest ODI score, but it could have been so much more.
Earlier, Joyce's well-paced hundred, and the continued good form of Balbirnie helped Ireland's innings rise to their highest-ever ODI score - 331 for 8. But it was never considered to be safe on a flat pitch, especially with a one-dimensional bowling attack.
Joyce came in during the third over and survived an edge that fell short of first slip and a dropped catch when he skied one off Mupariwa on 34. He reached his fifty in the 23rd over, off 62 balls. Ireland's hundred was up by then too, but the pace of the innings was rather lethargic.
The arrival of Balbirnie, following a 63-run partnership between Joyce and Porterfield, changed the complexion of the innings. He added 138 runs off only 18.3 overs with Joyce to reclaim the advantage. Balbirnie was batting at No 4 for the first time, but he was in tune to what was required at the stage. Being new to the crease, he let Joyce do most of the hitting during their partnership, which eventually became Ireland's highest second-wicket stand in ODIs.
Joyce looked more authoritative after crossing fifty, hitting sixes over midwicket, square-leg and long-on. He reached his third ODI hundred (and second for Ireland) off 98 balls and was dropped for a second time on 105 by Craig Ervine at cover. The same fielder, however, caught a simpler catch at midwicket to finally get rid of Joyce, whose 112 came off 103 balls.
Balbirnie took over and clattered 58 runs in 5.4 overs with Kevin O'Brien. Taylor, the stand-in captain, made plenty of bowling changes to thwart the onslaught, but Balbirnie kept going at a rapid pace. Ireland took 44 runs in the batting Powerplay before Balbirnie struck Panyangara for 21 runs in the 44th over with two fours and two sixes, one of them flicked on one knee over backward square-leg.
Kevin O'Brien and Gary Wilson struck 24 and 25 respectively but Balbrinie, who was faced very few deliveries after the 45th over, missed out on a century when he was run out in the final over for 97. Williams and Chatara took three wickets each, as Zimbabwe had to make do with only three specialist bowlers and three part-timers.