Recent Match Report – Zimbabwe vs Ireland 1st T20I 2023/24

Zimbabwe 148 for 9 (Raza 65, Madhevere 25, Little 2-17, Young 2-20) beat Ireland 147 for 8 (Balbirnie 32, Delany 26*, Raza 3-28, Ngarava 2-23) by 1 wicket

Brilliant catches, dramatic shifts in momentum and a lucky inside edge – Zimbabwe’s last-ball win against Ireland had it all in a game that had you on the edge of the seat for the last few overs.

Sikandar Raza put on a clinic with both bat and ball to lead Zimbabwe to victory in the first ever international match under lights at the Harare Sports Club and a 1-0 series lead against Ireland.

Raza picked three wickets to restrict Ireland to 147 before navigating the chase with a composed 42-ball 65 with wickets falling at the other end and some heated exchanges from Ireland fielders. But Zimbabwe’s work was far from done when Raza fell – thanks to a diving catch by Paul Stirling at cover – with the hosts still needing 11 off nine, and all the established batters back in the dugout.

The equation went down to nine off the final over, and when Ngarava and Gwandu managed only three runs off the first three balls, Ireland seemed to have edged ahead. But Ngarava found a boundary with a leg-side swipe to make it two needed off two.

Sounds simple? Well, not simple enough.

The momentum shifted again when Mark Adair ran back from short third to hold on to a blinder, landing on his neck after a full sumersault in the process and walked off. That left Muzarabani on strike, with two runs needed off the last ball. But to Ireland’s dismay, Muzarabani got an inside edge that beat Lorcan Tucker to give Zimbabwe the two runs they needed to seal a dramatic win.

Raza steers the chase

Ireland dominated the powerplay with both bat and ball, but Raza was key in bringing Zimbabwe back in the game in both innings.
Defending 147, Ireland started tightly with the ball and Tadiwanashe Marumani was out early, chipping Barry McCarthy to mid-on. Josh Little then had Sean Williams chopping on in next over to put Zimbabwe further under the pump.

Raza helped inject some momentum into Zimbabwe’s innings with back-to-back boundaries to end the powerplay. When spin came on, Wessly Madhevere reverse-swept George Dockrell for four but was out after one ball, exposing his stumps and missing his scoop.

Raza and Ryan Burl kept Zimbabwe ticking, and the momentum seemed to shift in the 12th over when Raza deposited Gareth Delany over midwicket and Burl powered a drive past long-on in a 13-run over.

But Craig Young threw a spanner in the works with two wickets in two overs. He bounced Burl out, with the batter top-edging the pull behind for Tucker to grab. Young struck again when debutant Bennett ended up hitting aerially to mid-off’s left and Harry Tector completed a stunning take running to his left and leaping to pluck the ball out one-handed.

However, Raza soon got to his 12th T20I fifty before stepping it up. After top-edging Adair for four, he hit a six over fine leg off McCarthy to start off a productive over. Madande pulled McCarthy for a six and four to make it a 19-run over to put bring the asking rate down to run-a-ball.

At that point, Zimbabwe looked set to see off victory without much trouble, but Little castled Madande before Adair dismissed Luke Jongwe and Raza in an excellent penultimate over.

But between Ngarava, Gwandu and Muzarabani, Zimbabwe managed to squeeze out the victory despite the last-over drama.

Balbirnie gets Ireland off to a flyer

Andy Balbirnie got Ireland off to a rollicking start, hitting Ngarava for three fours – including two gorgeous cover drives – in the first over.
He then took Muzarabani on, slapping him over point for a four and a six. Paul Stirling then welcomed Gwandu to international cricket by hitting him for three back-to-back fours as Ireland raced to 38 for no loss in three overs.

Muzarabani then slowed Ireland’s innings down with some off-pace deliveries. Ngarava reaped the benefit of the pressure created by the quiet over as he returned to trap Stirling in front with a low full toss.

Spin squeeze from Raza and co.

Raza brought himself on immediately after the powerplay and made instant impact by knocking Balbirnie over with a ball that spun in to beat the experienced batter’s attempted sweep and take his leg stump.

Ireland struggled to keep the tempo up against spin as Williams got in the act. He beat the batters with two beauties in his first over – the tenth of the innings – and got in the wickets column in his next as he had Lorcan Tucker caught at backward point. Raza then picked up his second wicket of the night by bowling Curtis Campher.

Only 53 runs came off the eight consecutive overs of spin after the powerplay, and the pressure told as Muzarabani castled Dockrell with a clever offcutter to leave Ireland on 108 for 5 with five overs to go.

Raza had his third when he trapped Tector in front with a sidearm delivery that pitched on leg stump, and looked to be sliding down, before straightening to pin him on the front pad. Adair was the next to go, trying to go for a big shot downtown off Ngarava only to pick out long-on.

Muzarabani’s slower variations brought him another wicket off the next over with McCarthy offering a simple catch to point. Delany helped Ireland go past 140 with a 20-run final-over, which saw him hit two sixes down the ground – including one that hit the roof.

Abhimanyu Bose is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo

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