Paul Stirling’s fireworks made a mockery of a stiff run-chase © Getty
Paul Stirling’s sensational batting display helped Ireland make mincemeat of Zimbabwe’s 132 for 8 in a rain-truncated 13-overs-a-side affair in Northern Ireland. Off the 134 that Ireland got in just 10.5 overs, Stirling smashed an unbeaten 83 off just 36 balls – 67 off which came in boundaries (6 fours and 7 sixes) to take Ireland to a 1-0 lead in the second game of the three-match T20I series.
Zimbabwe’s Craig Ervine was just getting started when rain interupted play with the visitors on 40 for 2 in 5 overs. When they eventually resumed, the Zimbabweans had to take the scoring rate a notch higher as there was a reduction in overs.
Ervine obliged, and went after Shane Getkate and Gareth Delany right after the rain break. There was a fiery 50-run stand with Sean Williams as Zimbabwe batsmen went for broke. Ireland struck timely blows but Ervine ensured Zimbabwe kept their scoring rate up at 10-an-over. He fell for an innings-defining 55 off 32 balls in the 12th, before Ryan Burl and Richmond Mutumbami hit a four each in the final over to help Zimbabwe end on 132 for 8 in 13 overs.
Ireland openers Stirling and Kevin O’Brien came out all guns blazing, taking 22 off the first two overs. The knob was turned further in the third – off Tendai Chatara – and the fourth – off Chris Mpofu – taking the opening stand to 50 runs in just four overs. Hamilton Masakadza trusted Chatara with an immediate second over, and that move paid off as O’Brien holed out to Jarvis at extra cover.
However, that wicket didn’t make any difference to Stirling, as he hit two sixes in a 19-run sixth over off Ryan Burl. At this stage, the target was dwarfed – to just 56 off 42 balls.
Despite taking such a big early leap, there was no letting up from the Irish batters, as Jarvis returned to get pounded for 13 off his second over. When both Stirling and Andy Balbirnie hit Sean Williams for a four each in the 8th, Ireland had already breached the 100-run mark and were on course for a comprehensive victory.
It didn’t help Zimbabwe one bit that Sikandar Raza would come on and straight away dole out a freebie on a platter for Stirling – a hit-me long hop – that was smashed over deep square leg. Raza overcompensated straight away by going too full and got the same treatment – this time over the long on fence. By the end of this over, Ireland’s asking rate had dipped to as low as four-and-a-half an over.
Such was the level of devastation, that the 10th over – from Mpofu – was just the second of the innings which did not yield runs in the double-digits for Ireland. Just five balls later though, Stirling sealed the chase.
Brief Scores: Zimbabwe 132/8 in 13 overs (Craig Ervine 55, Sean Williams 34; Mark Adair 4-40) lost to Ireland 134/1 in 10.5 overs (Paul Stirling 83*, Andrew Balbirnie 28*) by 9 wickets