HALF centuries by opening batter Innocent Kaia and former England batsman Gary Ballance provided little solace for Zimbabwe as they lost by 46 runs in the second One Day International (ODI) against Ireland at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
The result leaves the series evenly posied at one match apiece ahead of another potentially series deciding thriller at the same venue on Monday.
Asked to chase 294 on a good batting wicket, the home side cheered on by a near capacity crowd, were on track for a successful runchase with Ballance and Kaia scoring their maiden half centuries.
The hosts, however, lost wickets at crucial stages in the match, with their batsmen unable to convert their starts into big scores as they were bowled out for 248 in 47.3 overs to fall short by 46 runs.
Ireland's fast bowler Josh Little was named player of match after claiming four wickets for 38 runs.
Earlier, Zimbabwe's stand-in captain Sikandar Raza won the toss and elected to field, a decision which was probably motivated by previous results during the ongoing series.
The team winning the toss and opting to bat second had won all four previous matches on the tour — three in a Twenty20 series won 2-1 by Zimbabwe and the first ODI before yesterday's match.
Ireland, however, changed the script as Stephen Doheny top-scored with 84 runs.
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The 24-year-old wicketkeeper batsman who was playing in only his second international match smashed seven boundaries and a six before being caught at mid-off by Ballance after being hurried by Brad Evans's short-pitched delivery.
He shared a 104-run opening partnership stand with the Irish skipper Paul Stirling, who scored 45 runs.
Stirling's innings featured two sixes and four fours, before he was caught by Ballance, who went on to take four good catches during the innings.
For the second consecutive match Zimbabwe's bowlers also struggled to contain Harry Tector after he followed up his century on Thursday by smashing 75 runs off 61 deliveries.
His score included one six and seven fours, before he was caught by Ryan Burl at deep mid-wicket.
Fast medium bowler Tendai Chatara claimed three wickets for 3-51 runs while leg spinner Burl took two wickets for 66.
In reply Zimbabwe lost out of form opening batsman Tadiwanashe Marumani off the second delivery after he was trapped lbw by Josh Little for a first ball duck.
Former national team captain Chamu Chibhabha, who last played an ODI match for Zimbabwe in November 2020 against Pakistan, looked solid on his return to international cricket with 40 runs off 55 balls.
The 36-year-old, who has been in superb form in domestic cricket shared an 89-run partnership stand for th second wicket with Kaia, but was unable to kick on after being caught by Andy McBrine off the bowling of Graham Hume.
Kaia played some beautiful shots in his innings, which included three fours and a six as he reached his maiden half century to add onto his century against Bangladesh last year.
After reaching his half century off just 66 deliveres, Kaia was caught at midoff by Sterling to leave the hosts on 102 for three in 22.4 overs.
His dismissal brought Raza to the crease and the stand-in skipper raced to 25 off 21 deliveries, but he too was guilty of gifting his wicket away after being caught while trying to clear long on.
The Irish players were clearly relieved after claiming Raza's important wicket as it immediately tilted the scales in their favour with Zimbabwe now on 140 for four in the 29th over and still 154 runs shy of the target.
With the responsibility of taking Zimbabwe home now resting on the shoulders of Ballance and Burl, they responded well by sharing a 67-run partnership.
Ireland however, took control of the match after Burl's dismisssal for a fluent 39-ball 41 in the 39th over left Ballance without a recognised batter to partner and he was eventually dismissed for 52 runs in the 47th over.
Scores in Brief
Ireland - 294/7 (50 overs), Zimbabwe - 248 all-out (47.3/50 overs)
Ireland won by 46 runs