Tim Murtagh the hero as Ireland seal Zimbabwe series win
Veteran seamer takes career-best at Stormont as James McCollum stars with the bat
Ireland celebrate Tim Murtagh’s second wicket during his side’s narrow win over Zimbabwe. Photograph: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Ireland 242-9 off 50 overs (J McCollum 73, L Tucker 56, P Stirling 52, S Mire 4-34) beat Zimbabwe 237-9 off 50 overs (S Williams 58, R Burl 53, T Murtagh 5-21) by five runs.
Ireland squeaked home by five runs against Zimbabwe at Stormont, but it took a career best from the old man of the side and maiden 50s for the two youngest to seal a 2-0 win in the three-match series.
Tim Murtagh had ripped out the top order to leave the visitors 14-3, but the Africans rallied with three excellent partnerships before the Middlesex man returned to bowl the 49th over for just one run and complete his haul of 5-21. That left 14 to make in the final over, and although Ryan Burl gave it a go, some sharp fielding by Shane Getkate and Lorcan Tucker ensured a home win.
Ireland had an ideal start on a chilly morning, scoring 111 before they lost a wicket in the 24th over. Paul Stirling extended his sequence of half centuries to six - 77, 130, 71, 50, 57 and 52 - a total now exceeded only by Pakistan’s Javed Miandad, who scored nine.
Stirling’s junior partner, James McCollum (73), broke the run of indifferent scores that had kicked-off his ODI career and showed why he is the likely future leader of the Irish batting.
But their strong start was ended by occasional bowler Solomon Mire, who took 4-43 to drag his team back into the game. The middle order failed once again, exposing the tail.
It’s been 17 matches since an Ireland wicketkeeper scored a 50, but in only his second match with the gloves, Lorcan Tucker (56) held the lower order together, guiding them to 242, Ireland’s third-highest score in 23 games at the venue. Tucker was also the only batsman in the match to score at more than a run a ball on a pitch that nibbled about a bit, and later gave the spinners some assistance.
Ireland’s bowlers were less disciplined in finding their length and were punished for it. With Will Porterfield running out of options he returned to Murtagh who removed Sean Williams with the help of a stunning catch by Balbirnie, before that epic penultimate over.