Ireland 174 for 4 (O'Brien 47, Stirling 39, Balbirnie 36, Masakadza 2-22) beat Zimbabwe 110 for 9 (Ervine 28, Jongwe 24*, Adair 4-23, Getkate 2-19) by 64 runs
Batting might and Mark Adair
's four-wicket haul powered Ireland to a 64-run win over Zimbabwe in the fourth T20I in Bready. With that victory, the hosts also pocketed the series as they now have an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match rubber.
After Ireland were put in, Kevin O'Brien
(47 off 39) and Paul Stirling
39 off 33) added 89 in 10.1 overs for the first wicket to set the platform. Andy Balbirnie
then smashed a 22-ball 36 and at one stage Ireland were eyeing a total in excess of 180. The Zimbabwe bowlers, though, bowled well in the death overs to restrict them to 174 for 4.
It was still a formidable total, which appeared even more daunting for Zimbabwe in the absence of allrounder Ryan Burl, who sprained his ankle just before the toss and was ruled out of the match. Adair then compounded their problems as he sent back Tadiwanashe Marumani, Regis Chakabva and Dion Myers inside the first four overs and reduced them to 25 for 3.
Two overs later, Craig Young made it 30 for 4 by dismissing Wessley Madhevere. Zimbabwe could never recover from there.
Stirling, O'Brien make merry
After winning the toss, Zimbabwe captain Craig Ervine opted to bowl on an overcast afternoon. His decision seemed to be paying dividends when Ireland could manage only 19 from the first three overs.
But the fourth over opened the floodgates. O'Brien launched Donald Tiripano's second ball over long-off for a six before the seamer sent down three wides and a beamer. At the other end, Stirling struck two fours off Richard Ngarava. A returning Blessing Muzarabani wasn't spared either. O'Brien pulled and cut him for three successive fours as Ireland finished the powerplay on 57.
That Ervine used his bowlers in one-over spells for the first half of the innings didn't help either. The bowlers couldn't settle into a rhythm and struggled with their lines and lengths. The result was not only the scoring opportunities but also extras down the leg side. O'Brien and Stirling didn't miss out on those gifts.
Masakadza's double-strike brings little respite
Wellington Masakadza eventually broke the opening stand with O'Brien's wicket. The batter went inside out, aerially towards long-off, where Milton Shumba took an excellent catch diving forward. Soon after, he had Stirling too, caught at extra cover, when the batter top-edged a heave.
Balbirnie, though, didn't let Zimbabwe breathe easily. After being on a run-a-ball 5, he launched an all-out attack. He swept Madhevere for a four and a six before hitting Tiripano for back-to-back fours, the second of which was a result of a poor fielding - another facet of the game Zimbabwe were found lacking in. The only consolation for Zimbabwe was that they conceded only 40 from the last five overs.
Adair rocks Zimbabwe's chase
Zimbabwe needed a quick start to give themselves any chance of chasing down Ireland's total. Their openers Marumani and Madhevere took seven off the opening over, bowled by Craig Young. After that everything went downhill for them as Adair struck with the first ball of the second over. Bowling around the wicket to the left-handed Marumani, he pitched it up only for the batter to chip a return catch.
In his next over, Adair had Chakabva caught down the leg side, although the batter's reaction hinted he probably didn't nick it. Two balls later, he uprooted Myers' leg stump with an inswinging yorker. He would return in the 18th over to pick up Muzarabani.
Ervine tried to anchor the chase but there was no support for him. By the ninth over, half of the Zimbabwe side was back in the pavilion and by the tenth, the asking rate had crossed 12. In those circumstances, Ervine's 30-ball 28 and an unbroken 24-run stand for the last wicket, between Luke Jongwe and Richard Ngarava, only reduced the margin of the defeat.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo