Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
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Ireland 118 for 3 (Stirling 43, Balbirnie 34, Masakadza 1-9) beat Zimbabwe 131 (Ervine 57, McBrine 3-26, Little 3-33) by seven wickets (DLS method)
Ireland levelled the three-match series against Zimbabwe 1-1 in a rain-interrupted stop-start affair in Brendan Taylor's last match as an international player. The former Zimbabwe captain had a forgettable finale, scoring just seven in a total of 131 and watching Ireland knock off the target fairly easily. The hosts lost three wickets in response, but gained ten points on the World Cup Super League table to move into fourth spot, although with 15 matches, they have played more games than most.
Still, Ireland would have been delighted to not drop any further points in this series after losing the first match and sharing spoils in the second, which was washed out. They were in a strong position in that game and scored 282 for 8, but Zimbabwe's chase never began.
For the visitors though, it is the end of an era, with Taylor finishing a 17-year career, and Sean Williams, their former Test captain, also indicating his intention to take a break. And if this turns out to be Williams' last match, it was not memorable for him either. He scored four, was the first of Andy McBrine's three victims and injured his shoulder in the field, though he returned after the last rain delay.
Morning showers delayed the start by two hours and 15 minutes, and reduced the matters to 42 overs a side before a 28-minute drizzle in the middle of Zimbabwe's innings cut that down further to 38. Ireland's chase started late when rain returned, but was paused in the eighth over, with the target eventually set at 118 runs from 32 overs.
Their openers Paul Stirling and William Porterfield worked their way to 36 without loss when the final interruption happened, and had been particularly severe on Luke Jongwe. They took 16 runs of Jongwe's opening over including a Stirling smash over the sight screen for six. Stirling's big-hitting continued after the break when he cleared the rope off Richard Ngarava. But his opening partner Porterfield did not get going in quite the same way. He scored 16 off 33 balls before he edged a Blessing Muzarabani short ball to Regis Chakabva.
Muzarabani thought he had Stirling too in his next over, when the batter was given out leg before wicket after he shuffled across a full delivery and was hit in front of middle and leg stump. Stirling reviewed and replays showed the ball would have gone over leg. Jongwe also thought he had Stirling when, again, Stirling was given out leg before and reviewed. Replays then showed the ball would have turned past leg stump. Ngarava finally accounted for Stirling, who sliced a pull to midwicket; but by then, Ireland were well on their way to victory.
Harry Tector finished off a fuss-free run chase and a lesson in how to construct an innings, something Zimbabwe sorely needed. They stuttered through and stumbled against both seam and spin, with only Craig Ervine scoring more than 16. The Zimbabwe captain brought up his 17th ODI half-century, as his team-mates fell to the left-arm seam of Josh Little and the offspin of McBrine, who took three wickets each. Simi Singh and Shaun Getkate, a last minute inclusion at the expense of Craig Young, cleaned up the rest.
The innings started in emotional fashion when Taylor walked out to a guard of honour from his own team and the Irish, but quickly spiralled downhill. He was off the mark with a hoick to deep square, and his only other runs came off the outside edge when he poked at a short, wide ball from Little. And Taylor was bowled off the next delivery, swinging for the hills in classic Taylor style, with no footwork. He thus finished with 6684 runs in his ODI career, the second-highest for Zimbabwe in the format.
In Little's next over, he removed Chakabva with a full ball on middle and off that beat his indecisive prod. Ervine and Wessley Madhevere put on 59, the most productive partnership of the Zimbabwe innings, and both looked in good control. Ervine was particularly confident on the sweep and played the shot of the innings when he cleared the front leg to send Getkate over the deep square leg boundary for six. But when Madhevere tried to take on Getkate, his attempt to slap him over the in-field resulted in a tame catch to Stirling at mid-on. That wicket sparked a collapse that saw Zimbabwe lose 8 for 57 either side of a rain break.
Williams played back to a full ball from McBrine and had his off stump pegged, and McBrine removed a well-set Ervine, who pushed forward defensively and edged to Lorcan Tucker. Sikandar Raza was run-out after responding late to a call for a single from Ryan Burl. By the time Raza saw that Burl, who was the striker, had taken off for a single after hitting Simi to short mid-wicket, Balbirnie had already swooped on the ball and Raza had to run to the wicketkeeper's end, although he was never likely to make his ground. Burl was then bowled in Simi's next over when he missed a heave across the line.
Ireland's next two wickets came through reviews: McBrine accounted for Jongwe, confirmed leg before, while Little returned to take out Muzarabani, who drove away from his body and was caught behind. Ngarava and Wellington Masakadza tried to bat out the overs, but Ngarava was bowled as he tried to pull Simi to end the innings with four overs to spare.
It was also the last international for Irish umpire Alan Neill, who has been umpiring since 2004. He stood in 41 internationals, and over a hundred matches, all told.
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