Ed Joyce slammed 112 as Ireland beat Zimbabwe. Photo: ICC

By Sandipan Banerjee
Ireland won a cliffhanger against Zimbabwe by a narrow margin of five runs at Hobart, and kept their hopes of qualifying for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 quarter-finals alive. Chasing a stiff target of 332, the Dav Whatmore coached team got all-out for 326 in 49.3 overs, following a fighting ton by stand-in skipper Brendan Taylor and a stroke-full 96 by middle order batsman Sean Williams. With this victory Ireland replaced West Indies in the No. 4 position of ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Pool B points table. Full Scorecard: Ireland vs Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe needed just seven runs in the penultimate over of the match. But Alex Cusack, who was Ireland’s best bowler in the game by a long distance, bowled superbly and claimed the wickets of Regis Chakabva in the first ball and Tawanda Mupariwa in the third ball. William Porterfield, the Irish skipper took the final catch and Ireland secured valuable two points.

Now they need to win atleast one of their next two games against India and Pakistan to secure their place in the last eight stage. Zimbabwe on the other hand are now eliminated from this year’s ICC Cricket World Cup. They will play their final game against India on March 14, to round off a disappointing World Cup campaign.

It was a stiff chase but the Zimbabwe openers were ready to take their time initially, which was the right way to go. Their openers Chamu Chibhabha and Sikandar Raza came out with lot of intent. Both have given Zimbabwe a good start but, the game turned on his head when they lost three wickets in quick successions.

To up the scoring rate, Zimbabwe sent Solomon Mire as the pinch hitter at No. 3. But that experiment did not work. Also they lost the big wicket of Hamilton Masakadza. From 32/0, suddenly Zimbabwe were struggling at 41/3. They were pegged back further as the African team lost one more and it was 74/4 in the scoreboard.

From there Taylor and Williams got together and the pendulum again swung towards Zimbabwe. The 149-run partnership of just 125 balls changed the whole scenario. Ireland, who were once looking like restricting the Zimbabweans under 200 to boost their net-run rate and go past Pakistan in the Pool B points table, now had to fight hard to win the game.

Taylor and Williams played shots at their will. The Irish bowlers also feed them deliveries in their zone. In course of the match, Taylor reached his seventh One-Day International (ODI) ton. By doing this he also became the joint highest century scorer for Zimbabwe along with Alistair Campbell.

Earlier on a overcast day at the Tasmanian capital, Taylor, the stand in skipper of Zimbabwe, won an important toss and did not think twice to chase, which has been the poplar trend of this World Cup. They missed their regular captain, Elton Chigumbura, who was ruled out of the game because of a a quad muscle injury. His place was taken by Chakabva. Ireland on the other hand dropped Max Sorensen, who had an expensive return against South Africa, and brought in Cusack, later who won them the game.

On a slowish Bellerive Oval track, Zimbabwe had an excellent start, when Tinashe Panyangara, got rid of a dangerous looking Paul Stirling early. At that point Irish batmen were not allowed to score freely as the Zimbabwe new ball bowlers bowler very tightly. But the experience pair of William Porterfield and Joyce stuck around. They took their time initially. Both put up a crucial 63-run partnership and played out the difficult overs.

After Porterfield’s wicket Balbirnie joined a Joyce at the crease and both batted with lot of freedom. Both shared a partnership of 138 in just 18.3 overs, which changed the momentum of the match completely. Ireland, who were once looking to score around 270-280, finally finished with 331, thanks to that third particular partnership. Joyce was dropped twice and that cost Zimbabwe badly.

Joyce meanwhile reached his third ODI century in just 96 balls. But unfortunately Balbirnie missed his maiden ton by just three runs. Kevin O’Brien and Gary Wilson played couple of handy knocks later to put Ireland on a strong position at the end of the first half of this match.

Brief scores:
331 for 8 in 50 overs (Ed Joyce 112, Andrew Balbirnie 97, William Porterfield 29; Tendai Chatara 3 for 61) beat Zimbabwe 326 in 49.3 overs (Brendan Taylor 112, Sean Williams 97; Alex Cusack 4 for 32) by 5 runs.

Man of the match: Ed Joyce

Full Scorecard

(Sandipan Banerjee is a reporter at CricketCountry. Cricket has been the biggest passion for him since his childhood. So, when it came to choosing his career, he chose to turn his passion into his profession. Apart from cricket he likes mountain trekking, river rafting, and photography. His twitter handle is @im_sandipan)

The above article is reproduced with permission from cricketcountry.com