Ireland 258 for 6 (Balbirnie 101, Stirling 57) beat Zimbabwe 254 for 9 (Ervine 105, Adair 4-73) by four wickets
Andy Balbirnie's fifth ODI hundred set up a successful chase as Ireland beat Zimbabwe by four wickets in the first encounter of their three-match series. Balbirnie fell with 26 still needed but Mark Adair, who had earlier claimed 4 for 73, struck 21 from 13 balls to seal victory with an over and a half to spare.
Zimbabwe's 254 for 9 had been built around a century from Craig Ervine, but he received little support from the rest of the top order and it took an unbeaten 49 from 42 balls by No. 8 Ryan Burl to get them up to a competitive total.
"Zimbabwe are a good team but I thought the Zimbabwe score was about par or a bit below, as the outfield was very quick and it was as good a wicket as I've played on here," Balbirnie said. "I think looking ahead we can learn from last series against Afghanistan when we went one up and then we didn't perform in the second. We'll be desperate to train well and put in another good performance in the next ODI."
Morning rain had led to a delayed start, and Adair then struck twice in the opening Powerplay to send back both Zimbabwe openers. Brendan Taylor became the maiden ODI wicket for debutant Shane Getkate, leaving Zimbabwe 49 for 3 in the 14th over.
Ervine found a partner in Sean Williams to post a 55-run stand, before Getkate struck again. Neither Sikandar Raza nor PJ Moor stuck around for long, and after Ervine fell for 105 - his third ODI ton - Zimbabwe were 210 for 7 and in need of some impetus from Burl, who cracked three fours and four sixes to end the innings with a flourish.
In response, Paul Stirling and Balbirnie fashioned a century stand for the second wicket, after Kyle Jarvis had removed James McCollum in the ninth over. Stirling struck eight fours in registering his fifth consecutive ODI half-century, only for his dismissal to give Zimbabwe an opening, as Tendai Chatara claimed three wickets in as many overs to leave Ireland 150 for 4.
Lorcan Tucker, in his third ODI and having taken the gloves for the first time, steadied the hosts by helping Balbirnie add another 64 runs. But there was more drama when Jarvis removed Tucker on the hook and then Balbirnie ran himself out three overs later.
However, with 26 required from 28 balls, Adair and Getkate did their bit with the bat to ensure that Ireland would get home and take a 1-0 lead in the series.