Josh Little’s 6 for 36 put Ireland 1-0 ahead – LSB

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Ireland 170 for 6 (Kempfer 66, Tucker 28, Mazarabane 2-23, Mamuta 2-37) Zimbabwe 166 (Msakadza 40, Pearl 38, Little 6-36) with four wickets.

Little blew away Zimbabwe’s top order with four wickets – including three in an over – reducing the hosts to 19 for 4. Ryan Burl, Cliff Madande and Wellington Masakadza all held down the fort for some time as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 166 in 42.5 overs. With a few claiming 6 for 36 in 10 overs. In response, Curtis Campher hit a 71-ball 66 as Ireland completed a 40.1 overs win.

Sikandar Raza chose to play under blue skies, but he was in for a rude awakening. Tinashe Kamunhukamwe fired a brace from Mark Adair but failed to hold on to a short-length ball to pull it to George Dockrell who volleyed the ball well forward. Mitton Shumba then pushed two balls to a long-off fielder only to give Lorcan Tucker a simple catch behind the stumps. Little was struck for a third time in the fourth over when Joylord Gumbie’s difficult stay at the crease ended with his bottom edges back on his stumps.

Zimbabwe were reduced to 16 for 3 after four overs and Little added to their woes by removing their skipper Reda in the next over, who also clipped a long ball onto his stump.

Pearl and Madande then had a brief revival. The duo added 45 off 74 balls for the fifth wicket with Madande being the aggressor who scored 42 balls (33). He got 5 when Harry Tector missed a difficult chance at the back post but he increased his confidence. His innings was ended by Andy McBrien with an excellent deep mid-wicket move to his left.

Brandon Mafuta came and went as Zimbabwe were reduced to 70 for 6 from 22 overs. But Pearl and Masakadza halted the collapse with a 63-run stand for the seventh wicket.

Masakadza came on and hit Little for four before hitting McBrine into the stands over deep midwicket. Pearl, who had been cautious up until then, also broke the shackles by depositing Graham Hume at the halfway point.

Tector then broke a promising stand by dismissing Pearl before Little returned to complete his first five-wicket haul in ODIs by removing Masakadza and then cleaning out Ngarava for 1. Mark Adair ended Zimbabwe’s innings on 43. Pearl, who was stumped by Little’s short ball in the 10th over , suffered a concussion and exited the match and was replaced by Tony Munyonga in the second half.

The surface was not suitable for batsmen and Andy Balbirnie discovered this immediately when he saw his pole walk off the first ball thanks to a fielder off Richard Ngarava. Paul Sterling went wide with a powerful shot but Ngarava and Blessing Muzarabani kept things together. The goalkeeper brought down Sterling in the 13th minute but failed to capitalize, and was beaten by Mezarabani soon after. Ireland could only manage 29 for 2 after a strong first over with two of their frontline bowlers unchanged.

But first change player Tanaka Tshivanga failed to maintain the pressure. He leaked 15 runs off the first over with Campher taking him three fours in a row. Mezarabani then went four overs in his next over as Ireland continued to move away.

Tector and Kafer added 52 runs for the third wicket before the former was bowled by a leg-breaking peach by Mafuta. Although Kamfer made sure to continue and found an ally in Lorcan Tucker.

The two pushed Ireland closer to the target when rain halted play with the visitors at 101 for 3 after 25, needing 66 from 25 overs. Campher stumbled into the locker room clutching his side at the rain break but returned to center once play resumed.

No money was lost but Zimbabwe delivered a few blows to cause some flutter in the Irish camp. Campher reached his fifty off 58 balls and then hit a few more balls. But Mafuta soon had him bowling cleanly when he miscued a full-length ball. Mezarabani then saw Tucker back for 28 as he finished with excellent figures of 10-2-23-2.

However, Adair and Dockrell maintained their composure adding 34 runs for the sixth wicket. Dockrell fell when only a run was needed for victory before Adair finished off the match with a sweep over the wicket-keeper’s head.

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