Balbirnie century guides Ireland past Zimbabwe
Stirling makes fifth consecutive 50 to help team to victory over beleaguered visitors
Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie hits a six during the first match of the ODI series against Zimbabwe at Bready Cricket Club in Magheramason, Co Tyrone. Photograph: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Fifty years ago, Ireland bowled out the West Indies for 25 in a tiny village in Co Tyrone. On Monday, in a similarly small settlement in the same county, they recorded another victory over a touring side with a lot less fuss but no little drama.
Sion Mills is 21km (13 miles) from Magheramason, but Irish cricket has come a lot further in that half century.
A perfectly measured 101 by Andrew Balbirnie, supported by Paul Stirling gave Ireland a four-wicket win over Zimbabwe and a 1-0 lead in the GS Holdings Series.
The tourists arrived under a cloud, with their board suspended by government and the parallel women’s tour of Ireland cancelled at the last minute.
Ireland, too, have had some bruising setbacks on and off the field, but they will be heartened that the new blood has started to bubble nicely. Shane Getkate came in for his ODI debut, and Lorcan Tucker was preferred to Gary Wilson.
Mark Adair broke through with two wickets in his first three overs, and although he bowled too many bad balls, returned to mop up the tail.
Zimbabwe’s 254-9 was backboned by former Lisburn pro Craig Ervine’s no-frills 105, and although Getkate started nervously he claimed the plum wickets of Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams.
Ireland lost James McCollum for 27, but a stand of 105 put the home team on top. Stirling’s 57 was his fifth score over 50 in succession, a sequence beaten by only five other players in more than 4,000 ODIs.
His departure precipitated a mini-collapse, with William Porterfield and Kevin O’Brien out to loose shots but the cool-headed Tucker joined his clubmate for a vital stand of 64.
Balbirnie made his fifth century in 24 innings, facing 109 balls and hitting nine fours and two sixes. He was run out with 26 needed, but once Getkate and Adair settled their nerves Ireland eased to victory with nine balls to spare.
FIRST GS HOLDINGS ONE-DAY INTERNATIONAL
*H Masakadza lbw b Adair 15
T Kamunhukame b Adair 1
C Ervine c Balbirnie b Stirling 105
B Taylor c O’Brien b Getkate 12
S Williams lbw b Getkate 28
Sr Raza st Tucker b McBrine 8
+PJ Moor c Tucker b Adair 17
R Burl not out 49
DT Tiripano c Getkate b Murtagh 2
K Jarvis c McBrine b Adair 4
T Chatara not out 4
Extras (lb 3, w 7) 10
Total (for 9, 50 overs) 254
Fall of wickets: 1, 20, 49, 104, 129, 168, 210, 224, 243
Bowling: Murtagh 10-0-42-1, Adair 10-1-73-4, Getkate 7-1-33-2, Rankin 10-0-49-0, McBrine 10-0-34-1, Stirling 3-0-20-1.
P Stirling c Taylor b Chatara 57
J McCollum c Taylor b Jarvis 21
A Balbirnie run out 101
*W Porterfield c Taylor b Chatara 6
K O’Brien c Raza b Chatara 5
+ L Tucker c Burl b Jarvis 23
S Getkate not out 16
M Adair not out 21
Extras (lb 1, w 1, nb 6) 8
Total (for 6, 48.3 overs) 258
Fall: 28, 133, 142, 150, 214, 229
Did not bat: A McBrine, B Rankin, T Murtagh
Bowling: Jarvis 9.3-1-43-2, Chatara 9-0-36-3, Tiripano 10-0-53-0, Williams 10-0-66-0, Burl 4-0-27-0, Raza 6-0-32-0.
*Ireland won by four wickets
Umpires: M Hawthorne (Irl), S George (SA)