Ireland 189 for 8 (Stirling 50, Masakadza 2-31, Mutombodzi 2-33) beat Zimbabwe 187 (Williams 51, Raza 50, Murtagh 4-32) by two wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The third ODI between Ireland and Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club produced another exciting day's cricket, with Ireland scampering home by just two wickets in a low-scoring thriller. Zimbabwe's 187 appeared well under par, particularly when Ireland cruised past 100 with just three wickets down in the 28th over. But Zimbabwe kept chipping away, upping the pressure through two fine spells from spinners Wellington Masakadza and Tino Mutombodzi, as well as some astonishingly good fielding. Ireland slipped and stumbled to 160 for 8, but Nos. 9 and 10, Andy McBrine and Tim Murtagh, had just enough gas in the tank to get their team over the line with just over three overs to spare.
It never looked like getting that close when the first over of Ireland's chase, bowled by debutant Taurai Muzarabani, was clattered for 18 runs. Ireland captain William Porterfield did much of the early damage, but Ireland's galloping start was snapped by a superb catch in the covers by Sikandar Raza, leaping high to pluck the ball out of mid air to dismiss the left-handed batsman. Zimbabwe slowly clawed their way back into the game, cutting down Ireland's scoring options, and they had another opening when the experienced Ed Joyce was caught in the deep attempting to reassert his dominance with a slog sweep.
Again Ireland tipped the scales with a 48-run partnership for the third wicket between Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie, their highest stand of the match, and again it was Raza who brought Zimbabwe back into the match. He had only one stump to aim at, having cut off a clip into the leg side at midwicket, but he hit it directly to run Balbirnie out for a watchful 24.
With the field spread, Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura put his spinners to work on Ireland's middle order and a frustrated Niall O'Brien sliced a catch into the covers as Ireland slipped to 102 for 4. Importantly, Stirling remained and he brought up an uncharacteristically patient fifty, from 90 deliveries, as Ireland crept closer to the target.
When he fell, surprised by a short ball that he spliced to a diving Richmond Mutumbami behind the stumps, Ireland were 119 for 5 in the 33rd over and suddenly Zimbabwe had their tails up. Close catchers were brought in around the bat, and John Nyumbu showed remarkable forethought as he sprinted from slip to leg slip, having seen Gary Wilson set himself for a sweep, and held a sharp chance above his head. When a becalmed Kevin O'Brien slog-swept Masakadza out to substitute fielder Malcolm Waller in the deep, Ireland were 148 for 7 in the 41st over and it was anyone's game.
With George Dockrell bounced out by a recharged Muzarabani with the score at 160, it was left to Ireland's tailenders to scrap for the remaining runs. Zimbabwe brought their field in further, and while Andy McBrine opted for caution Murtagh seized the opportunity for quick runs, and played particularly confidently through the leg side. A whip through midwicket for three by Murtagh took Ireland to the brink, and McBrine then sealed the game with an edge that squirted past the diving wicketkeeper and down to the third-man boundary.
Murtagh had also played a vital hand earlier in the day with a disciplined display of seam bowling that brought him four wickets, and the Man-of-the-Match award. Murtagh would have been pleased to have been bowling in the morning after Porterfield won his first toss of the series and sent Zimbabwe in to bat, and with Craig Young bowling a brisk, attacking spell from the other end both Zimbabwean openers were removed before the fourth over had been completed.
The hosts consolidated through Sean Williams and Brian Chari's 49-run stand for the third wicket, but the Irish attack never really let the pressure ease and Zimbabwe's runs were arriving at barely three runs an over. Williams eventually found the room to accelerate, and brought up a fluent fifty in the 26th over, but in the course of his innings he seemed to pick up some sort of knee niggle, and started limping through singles. Perhaps distracted by the pain, he feathered a cut off Stirling's offspin and Ireland incised further into Zimbabwe's middle order.
The hosts fought back once more, with Chigumbura and Raza building a 71-run partnership for the fifth wicket and Raza, in particular, found the aptitude for a daring counter-attack. Yet he departed heaving across the line for 51 shortly after Chigumbura had perished to a lofted stroke into the deep, and Zimbabwe collapsed in a heap, slipping from 159 for 4 to 187 all out. It appeared Ireland could cruise to a morale-boosting win, but as has happened so often between these two sides, the match went to the final overs once more.