Zimbabwe 211 for 9 (Raza 69*, Murtagh 3-36, McBrine 2-42) beat Ireland 104 (Stirling 41, Chisoro 3-22, Cremer 3-18) by 107 runs
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE edged closer towards qualifying for next year’s edition of the ICC World Cup to be hosted by England and Wales after cruising to a comfortable 107 runs victory over Ireland in their opening Super Six clash at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
Buoyed by a vociferous home crowd, Zimbabwe never looked troubled in the defence of the total despite being restricted to a modest 211 for nine in their allotted 50 overs after being sent in to bat first.
It was yet another sensational bowling display from Graeme Cremer’s side who skittled the Irish for 104 runs in 34.2 overs.
Ireland struggled to contain Zimbabwe’s spin department as Cremer and Tendai Chisoro dazzled to finish with three wickets apiece to deliver a convincing victory for the hosts.
The victory lifted Zimbabwe to the top of the six-team Super Six points table on five points above second-placed Scotland due to a better net run rate and pre-tournament favourites West Indies (4).
This win thrust them in the driving seat to secure one of the two tickets to the global showpiece.
All-rounder Sikandar Raza was yet again the hero for the hosts, further enhancing his growing reputation as Zimbabwe cricket’s new knight in the shining armour with his third man of the match award in the competition.
Raza has throughout this qualifying tournament proved to be go-to guy when they’re in trouble and yesterday he delivered yet again.
Asked to bat by William Porterfield, Zimbabwe looked in danger of failing to pass the 150 mark at one stage, as they were reduced to 139 for seven inside 34 overs.
Raza, however, came to the hosts’ rescue with a defiant and unbeaten 83-ball as he shared a 42-run stand with Chisoro for the eighth wicket to lift the Zimbabwe to 211 for nine which in the end proved too much for the tourists.
Zimbabwe will qualify to the global showpiece with a victory over the Windies at the same venue on Monday before they take on United Arab Emirites in their last match. But for long periods early in yesterday’s match, it seemed as if Monday’s contest would be a matter of do-or-die for the hosts as Ireland came off the blocks firing from all cylinders.
Cephas Zhuwao did give Zimbabwe a rapid start, but after slamming two sixes and a four, he sent a Barry McCarthy slower delivery straight to Boyd Rankin at long-on to depart for an 18-ball 20.
Zimbabwe were in further trouble when Solomon Mire and Hamilton Masakadza (18) fell in a space of two overs with the score on 50.
Zimbabwe’s 50 for three then became 87 for five as two big wickets – Sean Williams and Brendan Taylor – fell.
Williams (9) was just about starting to look settled when he pulled Tim Murtagh (3/36) high to McCarthy at deep mid-wicket, and Taylor, Zimbabwe’s best batsman in the tournament, was beaten on the reverse sweep by McCarthy to be trapped lbw and walked back for a 41-ball 25.
Craig Ervine’s runout in the 27th over for 20 runs spelt doom for the hosts, but Raza ensured the hosts would have something to fight for with his valiant knock which included four fours and three big sixes.
Cremer believes Raza’s fighting knock set the platform for his team’s crucial win.
“We know we can defend low totals and it was brilliant today, first of all to get to 200 was good, we could have been bowled out for 160.
“Raza was excellent again, he held the innings together and got us to a respectable total and our bowlers were sensational today,” he said.
“I don’t have to motivate him he really wants to do well all the time and he loves performing on the big stage and he’s been a huge asset for us for the last two years with the bat, the ball and in the field. He’s that all-round cricketer and come in all the time. He’s definitely my man of the match,” Cremer said.