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by John Pennington Monday 17 March 2014
Ireland 164-7 (Stirling 60) beatZimbabwe 163-5 (Taylor 59) by 3 wicketsICC World Twenty20 2014 Group B, SylhetScorecardAfter two disappointingly one-sided affairs got the the ICC World Twenty20 2014 in Bangladesh off to an underwhelming start, game three delivered an entertaining contest between two evenly-matched teams in Ireland and Zimbabwe.
On Saint Patrick's Day, Ireland scrambled a bye from the final ball to score a three-wicket win and put themselves in pole position to qualify for the Super 10s.
The finale to the match looked like a scene from a rugby game as an incoming fielder collided with non-striker Stuart Thompson as Brendan Taylor's throw from behind the stumps missed its target.
Both men tumbled to the floor but crucially, the batsmen - Alex Cusack having taken strike - made their ground.
Had the ball hit the stumps, the game would have been tied, but Ireland, having looked well on course for victory during their run chase before Tinashe Panyangara (4-37) inspired a late collapse, just about did enough to cling on and take what is a hugely important win.
Paul Stirling had earlier cracked 60 in 34 balls following Zimbabwe's innings of 163 for five, which was set up by Taylor's unbeaten 59 in 46 balls.
Cruelly for him, he wasn't quite able to have the final say with the ball and the result leaves Zimbabwe needing to win both of their remaining matches against the Netherlands and United Arab Emirates to stand any chance of making the Super 10s.
Even then, they would need Ireland to slip up against the same opponents to progress.
Ireland won the toss and chose to bowl first which was an understandable decision as the Sylhet stadium was making its international debut.
Zimbabwe, who have played significantly more cricket in Bangladesh than Ireland, weren't too disappointed and set about putting a good score on the board.
Hamilton Masakadza (21) and Sikander Raza (10) made starts before falling to Cusack and Andy McBrine but it was Taylor that took control.
He struck six fours and two sixes before falling in the 17th over, smartly caught by Ed Joyce off George Dockrell.
Sean Williams and Vusi Sibanda both made 16 before Elton Chigumbura landed some meaty blows, including a brace of late sixes, to finish unbeaten on 22 in 13 balls.
Timycen Maruma also cleared the ropes once to make 13 in nine deliveries at the other end.
Spinners Dockrell (2-18) and McBrine (2-26) were outstanding for Ireland while Cusack (1-530) was the other man to claim a wicket.
Ireland then got the sort of start they would have wanted as William Porterfield and Stirling put on 80 together in 8.2 overs.
Porterfield made 31 in 23 balls and Stirling then moved the score along to 100 alongside Joyce (22) before he was well caught by Raza off Tendai Chatara.
Joyce and Andrew Poynter (23 in 15 balls) looked to be guiding their side to victory during their 29-run stand for the third wicket but Taylor turned to Panyangara and he almost bowled his side to a come-from-behind win.
He had Poynter caught by Chigumbura and then Masakadza took a sharp catch at slip to see off Gary Wilson for a two-ball duck.
Ireland were 157 for five when Kevin O'Brien (17 in 10 balls) found Williams at long off and Ireland were stuttering.
The calming influence of Joyce must have given them confidence but Panyangara produce a yorker of the highest quality to bowl him, leaving Ireland needing two to win from four balls.
Then, Max Sorensen attempted to take a quick single from the first ball he faced and was left stranded by a Williams direct hit.
Thompson then struck a single to level the scores and set the stage for the chaotic finale. As the players picked themselves up and dusted themselves off, Ireland could finally celebrate.
© Cricket World 2014