Nagpur, Feb 15: Chasing Zimbabwe's 244/8 in their World Cup warm-up match, Ireland got off to an unsteady start, losing the wicket of Paul Stirling for a duck with the score at 1. Alex Cusack and Niall O'Brien put on something of a partnership before the latter was caught by Hamilton Masakadza off off-spinner Ray Price for 15 off 22 balls as the Irish had slipped to 40/2 in 9.5 overs.
Then Cusack and Andre Botha took Ireland over 50 in the 15th over. But when Cusack went when the score was on 87 in the 22nd over, it looked Zimbabwe was on top. However, Andrew White and Botha wrested back some momentum before the latter made his exit for just 19 with the score now at 127/4 in 31.2 overs.
Botha reached his 50 soon after and was given able assistance from Kevin O'Brien, who notched up his own half-century just as Ireland crossed the 200-run-mark in the 42nd over. With his side needing 29 runs off the last four overs, Botha smashed a boundary and then scampered a few more runs to reduce the equation to 19 required of 19 balls.
But then fast bowler Shingirai Masakadza struck to remove Botha for 79 with the score now reading 226/5 in 47 overs. Then needing 11 off the last two overs, new batsman Gary Wilson struck a boundary, but later in the over, he was out to Price for 7 as Ireland now needed 7 runs off 6 balls with 4 wickets in hand. Needing 5 off the last over, John Mooney struck a four and then ran a single to give Ireland victory by 4 wickets with 3 balls to spare.
Winning the toss and electing to bat first, Zimbabwe got off to a poor start. The African side's openers couldn't repeat their substantial opening stand again South Africa on Saturday. Brendon Taylor was the first to go with just 1 run on board. Former Irish captain Trent Johnston picked up his wicket for 1, shortly before Boyd Rankin got rid of Charles Coventry for 5 and then when Johnston returned to remove Sean Williams for 3, Zimbabwe were 12/3 in 7.3 overs.
Wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu and Craig Ervine tried to rescue the innings, but when the latter was run-out for 27, the Zimbabweans were further in trouble at 74/4 at the half-way stage. No sooner had the batting side reached 100, than Taibu was ensnared by the spin of Van de Merwe, for 45.
Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura and Prosper Utseya took their side past 150, but soon afterward, Utseya fell to Andre Botha and the score was 152/6 in 42.5 overs. After the skipper lost Utseya for 26 and Shingirai Masakadza for 1, both to Botha, he took his side to 200/7 with Graeme Cremer. Chigumbura managed to hit some meaty blows towards the end of the innings to take Zimbabwe to a respectable 244/8 in 50 overs.