Ireland won a dramatic World Twenty20 clash against Zimbabwe with a bye off the final ball as they got their campaign off to a victorious start on St Patrick’s Day.
The Irish announced their arrival on the world stage with a 17 March victory over Pakistan seven years ago and had spoken of repeating the feat against more established opponents. After being set 164 for victory, they looked like they would reach their total comfortably with man of the match Paul Stirling hitting 60 off 34 balls. But after losing two wickets in the final over, Ireland were sweating before Alex Cusack ran on a bye on the last ball and Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor failed to hit the stumps, with Stuart Thompson colliding with a Zimbabwe fielder as the Irish claimed a three-wicket win in the Group B clash in Sylhet.
Ireland got off to a flying start and William Porterfield and fellow opener Stirling put on an 80-run first-wicket stand before captain Porterfield (31) was out as Sean Williams made the breakthrough for Zimbabwe.
Stirling continued to impress and was joined at the crease by Ed Joyce, but was then caught by Sikandar Raza off Tendai Chatara’s bowling after Ireland reached their ton, to leave them 100 for two midway through their innings.
Andrew Poynter joined Joyce and managed 23 runs off 15 balls before Tinashe Panyangara took his first wicket and next up was Gary Wilson, who was out for a duck – leaving Ireland 129 for four after their wobble. In the 18th over, Kevin O’Brien (17) hit two fours and a six before losing his wicket. Panyangara claimed his final victim in the final over as he bowled Joyce two balls before Max Sorensen was run out for a duck, but the Irish hung on for the win off the last ball. Panyangara finished with figures of four for 37.
Earlier, Taylor scored 59 off 46 balls to help mount a respectable total of 163 for five after Porterfield won the toss and put Zimbabwe in to bat, with George Dockrell taking two for 18.
Zimbabwe got off to a shaky start and lost opener Raza (10) early on before Taylor joined Hamilton Masakadza at the crease and they began to put some runs on the board. But Masakadza (21) lost his wicket and then Williams (16) followed him – leaving his side on 78 for three.
Taylor, who was now joined by Vusi Sibanda, then started to pile the runs on and hit two fours and two sixes before Sibanda (16) fell first victim to Dockrell’s bowling as he was caught by Sorensen. Taylor hit three fours in the next over before losing his wicket in the following one, as Joyce caught him to his right at deep extra cover for Dockrell’s second wicket. That left Elton Chigumbura (22 not out) and Timycen Maruma (13 not out) to see out their innings.
Captain Porterfield admitted the nerves started to get to him when Ireland needed just seven runs from the last two overs, but managed only three from the penultimate over and then lost their two wickets.
He said: “I was fine up until about three balls to go. It got a lot closer than we would have liked, especially getting down to needing seven off the last two (overs), but all credit to the way Zimbabwe bowled in the last few overs. They put us under pressure.”