Botha and O'Brien secure tight victory
Ireland secured an impressive four-wicket victory against Zimbabwe to highlight their potential for making a mark on the World Cup
Ireland 245 for 6 (Botha 79, K O'Brien 62, Cusack 47) beat Zimbabwe 244 for 8 (Chigumbura 103*, Taibu 45) by four wickets
Ireland secured an impressive four-wicket victory against Zimbabwe to highlight their potential for making a mark on the World Cup. Kevin O'Brien guided them home with three balls spare as he struck an unbeaten 62 after adding 99 with Andre Botha (79) to form the backbone of the chase.
It meant Elton Chigumbura's 81-ball 103 went in vain and completed back-to-back warm-up defeats for Zimbabwe who were comprehensively beaten by South Africa in Chennai. They weren't helped when Ed Rainsford was forced out of the attack after his first delivery when he was struck on the leg by a straight drive, leaving the bulk of their bowling once again in the hands of the spinners. But in the absence of key batsmen Ed Joyce and William Porterfield, Ireland showed fine composure having lost Paul Stirling in the first over.
Alex Cusack gave the innings an early foundation with his 47, but at 127 for 4 in the 32nd over Ireland still needed a substantial partnership to overhaul the target. Botha provided the anchor while O'Brien brought the muscle to their fifth-wicket partnership as they kept up with the required rate. O'Brien twice cleared the ropes but lost his partner with 19 needed and Gary Wilson followed to provide a few late nerves until John Mooney helped see Ireland home.
Zimbabwe's top order had struggled, slipping to 12 for 3 and then 100 for 5 as Trent Johnson took 2 for 9 in five overs. Chigumbura and Prosper Utseya added 54 as Ireland used a variety of bowling options and Chigumbura then took charge with the lower order for company. He hit eight fours and three sixes as 90 runs came from the last seven overs, but it still didn't prove enough.
"It was the worst fielding performance we have produced since I took over as coach," said a disappointed Alan Butcher afterwards. "It was diabolical and unacceptable and I told the players that. We didn't score enough runs and it was actually a good effort to get so close to victory given how poorly we fielded."
For Chigumbura it was a day of mixed emotions: "I'm pleased to have scored the hundred and to get back to form - hopefully I can carry it on for the rest of the tournament. But we will have to improve as a team and it was very disappointing to field like we did and to lose."