Ireland succumb to Zimbabwe in tournament opener
Ireland Men succumbed to Zimbabwe by 31 runs in the opening game of their T20 World Cup campaign, with Sikander Raza’s 82 the difference between the sides.
Zimbabwe v Ireland, Game 4, T20 World Cup, Bellerive Oval, Hobart, 17 October 2022
Zimbabwe 174-7 (20 overs; S Raza 82, W Madhevere 22; J Little 3-24)
Ireland 143-9 (20 overs; C Campher 27, G Dockrell 24, G Delany 24; B Muzarabani 3-23)
Result - Zimbabwe won by 31 runs
The start of the game was delayed by over an hour due to rain during the earlier Scotland-West Indies clash, with both fixtures staged at the same venue. Andrew Balbirnie won the toss, chose to bowl, and was rewarded instantly: Josh Little struck with his second ball, a short-of-a-length delivery ducking inwards and catching Regis Chakabva’s thumb on its way to the keeper.
It was Little, the pick of Ireland’s bowlers, who struck next as well, re-introduced for the fifth over and this time needing six balls to force an in-road. Wessly Madhevere, after a lively cameo, attempted to pull a short ball, but could only pick out Gareth Delany - playing his 50th T20I - on the rope.
When Simi Singh - also bringing up a half-century of T20I caps - broke through again in the next over, skidding the ball past the advancing Craig Ervine for Lorcan Tucker to complete the stumping, Ireland were well on top. But the entrance of Raza changed the complexion of the contest, with the Zimbabwean all-rounder showing why he is one of the form batters in world cricket.
He played the dominant hand in a pair of middle-order partnerships to help Zimbabwe recover from 37-3 to 137-4, with Luke Jongwe then adding a late flourish. Two sixes in Curtis Campher’s second over signalled Raza’s intent, with Sean Williams falling within inches of replicating the feat in the following over. Instead, Singh won out, enticing the Zimbabwean into a second consecutive slog sweep, with a top-edge swirling into the leg-side. Mark Adair, fielding in the deep, had plenty of work to do, but managed to take the catch and lob the ball back inside the field of play to Harry Tector, who completed the formalities.
Little returned to keep things quiet in the following over, but Raza was soon on the attack again, hitting Adair for 10 runs in two balls in an over which also included a missed run-out chance. Another six and four followed in the next over, bowled by Delany, and Raza had raced to a 26-ball fifty.
After another big over, and another Raza six, Zimbabwe were 125-4 with 36 balls to come, and looking to push on towards 190. Instead, Ireland responded well, building pressure and reaping the rewards. Three boundary-less overs followed, with Milton Shumba falling in the second of those as he attempted to break the shackles. He went down on one knee to attempt to hoist Adair over square leg, but only succeeded in offering a catch to Little at short fine leg.
When Little claimed his third, Ryan Burl holing out to long-on on the first ball of his final over, Ireland might have hoped to run through the lower order. Instead, Jongwe’s sparky knock pushed Zimbabwe up to 174-7, with his 10-ball 20 containing three fours. Raza eventually fell, bowled by Adair to close out the innings, with his 82 the highest score for Zimbabwe in a T20 World Cup.
Ireland’s reply got off to a rocky start, with Richard Ngarava and Blessing Muzarabani each taking two early wickets. Paul Stirling chopped the former on to his stumps second ball, with Tucker bowled in Ngarava’s second over. Muzarabani then nicked off both Balbirnie and Tector, each caught by Ervine at slip, and Ireland were four down inside four overs.
From there, Ireland was faced with balancing the twin tasks of net run rate preservation and attempting an unlikely chase. George Dockrell and Campher helped rebuild, taking the score to 64-4 at the end of the ninth. Dockrell slashed two fours through third man while also whipping a boundary through square leg, with Campher running hard and sweeping to the rope through Muzarabani at short fine leg.
Raza continued his excellent day with the wicket of Dockrell, yorking the right-hander with his second ball, and Zimbabwe continued to make regular breakthroughs. Campher was bowled behind his legs by Williams attempting a sweep, Tendai Chatara claimed two in two, Delany holing out and Singh bowled, and Adair was caught by Raza off Muzarabani.
Barry McCarthy gave Ireland fans something to cheer late on, clubbing two slower balls, from Chatara and Muzarabani, into the Bellerive Oval stands, and driving Ngarava sweetly down the ground. His hitting, and a sumptuous last-over boundary from Little at No.11, reduced the eventual margin of victory to 31 runs.
Ireland’s next T20 World Cup game will be played against Scotland on Wednesday 19 October.