Ireland hold on for last-gasp win
Ireland 164 for 7 (Stirling 60, Panyangara 4-37) beat Zimbabwe 163 for 5 (Taylor 59, Dockrell 2-18) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Some say the phrase "The luck of the Irish" refers to the good fortune enjoyed by the citizens of that country when they took up mining, with much success, in the United States. Others say it was coined in irony, to reflect on the potato famine and wars that affected the country so badly. After their last-ball win against Zimbabwe on St Patrick's Day, Ireland's cricketers will be inclined to believe the former.
They restricted their Full Member opposition to what was considered a below-par score on a ground hosting its first international match. In response, they seemed to be having their own St Patrick's Day parade, coasting towards a win at 61 without loss after the Powerplay and 99 for 1 at the halfway stage. Then, they started to stutter.
Tinashe Panyangara, who went for 18 runs in his first over, changed ends and delivered a double-wicket maiden in the 15th over to drag Zimbabwe back into the game. Brendan Taylor made the bowler change ends again for his third over and Kevin O'Brien took 15 runs off Panyangara before falling on his sword in the 18th over. Still, Ireland needed only seven runs off the last two overs. Zimbabwe needed a miracle.
Tendai Chatara had bowled intelligently to that point with 17 off three overs and a wicket. He understood the conditions called for a change of pace. With a slew of slower balls, he gave away only three in the penultimate over. Ireland needed four off the last six.
Panyangara stepped up for the final over. The hallmark of his game is death-bowling and he showed it with his third ball - a perfect yorker to dismiss Ed Joyce. The next ball was almost as good but Max Sorensen dug it out and set off for a risky single only to be run out by Sean Williams at mid-off.
Ireland needed two runs. Zimbabwe still needed a miracle. The penultimate ball was a low full toss which Stuart Thompson outside-edged to third man. Ireland were one run away from a win, even as Zimbabwe thought they could pull off a miracle.
Panyangara fired a yorker-length ball, Alex Cusack missed but ran anyway. Taylor was not standing up to the stumps but threw under-arm from his position. Had he hit, Cusack would have been run-out and the match would have gone into a Super Over. He missed and Ireland scrambled the bye for a win.
After the match, a gutted Taylor had no explanation for his decision to not stand closer. "I backed myself to hit the stumps," he said. "But anyway, these things happen. I think we were still 20 runs short."
It turned out Zimbabwe were only two runs short, but Taylor held the batsmen responsible for not capitalising on starts. He was the only one who did, top-scoring with 59. The rest were frustrated by Ireland's spinners and the sluggish surface.
Between them, Paul Stirling, George Dockrell and Andy McBrine gave away only 68 runs in 12 overs and took four wickets. They pegged Zimbabwe back from the outset - Stirling opened the innings with an over that cost just four and then McBrine and Dockrell punctured the Zimbabwe innings. Hamilton Masakadza was caught at short midwicket trying to clear McBrine. Taylor was caught at the extra-cover boundary off Dockrell, looking to break the shackles after Sibanda lost his wicket to the pull shot.
After the Powerplay, Zimbabwe were well positioned at 56 for 1 and looked set for a total of 180-plus. But, at 131 for 5 after 17 overs, even 155 looked out of reach. Elton Chigumbura showed off his finishing skills, scoring 16 off the last over, including two sixes, but Taylor thought even 163 was not enough.
The way Ireland openers William Porterfield and Stirling started seemed to rubber-stamp the Zimbabwe captain's opinion. They raced to 61 without loss in the Powerplay, rendering Zimbabwe's early attack ineffective. Even after they were both dismissed, Ireland marched on.
It was only when Panyangara was brought back from a different end that Zimbabwe came alive again, inspired by his double strike. Prosper Utseya kept O'Brien and Joyce quiet, so did Sean Williams, and Zimbabwe built pressure.
O'Brien was not going to be stopped for too long, though, and when he tore into Panyangara, it seemed Zimbabwe's comeback was short-lived. The bowler, however, made up for his mistakes and delivered a final over that could have seen Zimbabwe win. But it was St Patrick's Day and the Irish have that luck.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent