Zimbabwe’s push for a quarterfinal berth at the ICC Cricket World Cup came to a disappointing end here yesterday after Ireland, with some assistance from the umpires’ bad decision, inflicted the final blow in an otherwise thrilling and dramatic contest.
By Kevin Mapasure in Hobart, Australia
In the end Ireland held on to a five run win but the controversial circumstances in which potential match-winner Sean Williams was dismissed dominated dialogue after the match.
Zimbabwe threatened to chase down a target of 332 set by Ireland who had lost the toss, but their spirited fight suffered the misfortune of bad umpiring, once again.
Many took to Twitter to express disappointment in the way Williams, who made 96, perished when his attempt to a six saw John Mooney take a catch right at the boundary off the bowling of Kevin Obrien.
Mooney celebrated gesturing that he had taken a clean catch, but television replays showed that his foot made contact with the boundary while the ball was in his hands.
One did not need to watch it more than once to confirm the foot had touched the boundary
More frustratingly, Williams was supposed to get six runs and reach the century milestone while also importantly brightening Zimbabwe’s chance.
Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor was gutted after the match and struggled to express his disappointment both at the result and the Williams dismissal.
“You have got to take his [Mooney] word for it, it looked pretty clear but you have to take the fielder’s word,” said Taylor.
Former Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher twitted; “Yet another shambolic piece of officiating.”
Sean Ervine also took to Twitter and he summed it up in three words, “What a joke.”
Zimbabwe needed to produce their best ODI run chase to win this match and the only other time they chased above 300 was against New Zealand in Bulawayo four years ago.
Experts had said that the Bellerive Oval was a good chasing field and so it proved and it was Taylor producing one of his best knocks (121) with Williams also playing a major role. Zimbabwe’s run chase got off to a bad start, losing both openers Sikandar Raza (12) and Chamu Chibhabha (18) cheaply, while Hamilton Masakadza (5) and Solomon Mire (11) who batted at number three also failed to make an impression.
With Ireland looking good for a comfortable win, the game took a turn with an excitingly constructed 149 run partnership between centurion Taylor and Williams that restored Zimbabwe’s hitherto faltering hope. Taylor hit 11 boundaries and four sumptuous sixes in his thrilling 121 which came off just 92 balls. But Ireland struck a blow when Alex Cusack’s slower delivery got the better of Taylor, who skied his effort with Obrien taking the catch.
When Craig Ervine came in to keep Williams company, there was every hope and belief a win was still achievable, but the former lasted 24 balls for his 11. Regis Chakabva was the last recognised batsman on the line-up and he seemed to have been the last hope of giving Williams the support that he needed.
That he did, but disaster struck with the contentious decision that left Zimbabwe seven wickets down with 19 balls remaining and 32 still required in the victory chase.
Tinashe Panyangara could not withstand the heat but Tawanda Mupariwa came close to becoming an unlikely hero with the bat.
He clobbered a six and two boundaries which gave Zimbabwe the best hope, yet he watched Chakabva drag a Cusack delivery on to his stumps with seven runs in the deficit.
With five runs required in the last four balls, Zimbabwe only needed ones and two. Mupariwa tried finishing it off in style but Ireland captain William Poterfield was not going to drop such a crucial catch.
The contentious decision aside, Zimbabwe will still be kicking themselves after they failed, dismally, to take their chances in the field and they will know they might not have had to chase such a huge total.
Mupariwa, Matsikenyeri and Ervine were all guilty of dropping Ed Joyce (112) who used his three lives to hit a century and Andrew Balbirnie whose quickfire 97 ensured an imposing total.