Paul Stirling struck a blistering half-century to guide Ireland to a three-wicket win over Zimbabwe in a Qualifying Group B match of the ICC World T20 in Sylhet on Monday.
Chasing a challenging 163 for five set by Zimbabwe, Stirling (60) and skipper William Porterfield (31) got Ireland off to a blazing start and shared 80 runs off just 8.2 overs for the opening stand to set the platform for the win.
Stirling’s 60 came off just 34 balls with the help of nine boundaries and one six, while Porterfield laced his 23-ball knock with three fours and one hit over the fence.
Going strong at 100 for two, Ireland lost their next five wickets in a hurry to make life difficult for themselves towards the end with medium-pacer made Tinashe Panyangara (4/37) doing the bulk of the damage.
After Stirling’s dismissal, Ed Joyce (22), Andrew Poynter (23) and big-hitting Kevin O’Brien (17) did the bulk of the scoring but failed to ensure the victory for Ireland as they all became victims of Panyangara.
But Ireland finally managed to scamper home in the final delivery of their innings with Stuart Thompson remaining unbeaten on three off six balls.
Nearly a Super over finish
The match could well have gone into a Super Over had Zimbabwe’s ‘keeper-captain Taylor hit the stumps after star-bowler Panyangara managed to sneak in a ‘dot’ ball to batsman Alex Cusack. Cusack missed his shot, but scrambled for a single as the good length ball reached Taylor behind the stumps.
Then Taylor aimed for a run-out, but as and when he missed, non-striker Thompson had grounded his bat over the crease to clinch the bye and Ireland had won the match by the narrowest of margins.
Earlier, sent into bat, Zimbabwe rode on skipper Brendan Taylor’s 46-ball 59 to reach 163 for five from their alloted 20 overs.
Apart from Taylor, Elton Chigumbura (22 not out), Hamilton Masakadza (21), Sean Williams (16) and Vusi Sibanda (16) made significant contributions with the bat.
Left-arm orthodox bowler George Dockrell (2/18) and off-spinner Andy McBrine (2/26) shared four wickets between them for Ireland.
Ireland will play UAE in their next qualifying match on Wednesday here, while Zimbabwe will be up against Netherlands.
Brief scores: Zimbabwe 163 for five in 20 overs (Brendan Taylor 59, Elton Chigumbura 22, Hamilton Masakadza 21; George Dockrell 2/18, Andy McBrine 2/26) lost to Ireland 164 for seven in 20 overs (Paul Stirling 60, William Porterfield 31, Andrew Poynter 23, Ed Joyce 22; Tinashe Panyangara 4/37, Tendai Chatara 1/20, Sean Williams 1/27) by three wickets