AFTER a nail-biting yet refreshing two-wicket victory in the opening One Day International (ODI) on Friday, the Zimbabwe national cricket team would be aiming to secure a series clinching win over Ireland in the second one-day match at Harare Sports Club on Sunday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Zimbabwe, who leap-frogged Ireland into 10th position on the International Cricket Council (ICC) ODI rankings after Friday’s win, can seal the three-match series with a game to spare by winning today’s encounter.
Following an excellent performance by spinners John Nyumbu and debutant Wellington Masakadza, to reduce Ireland to 219 for eight, Zimbabwe were further boosted by the return to form of batsmen Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza, who both scored half centuries.
Despite a slight wobble which saw the home side being reduced to 171 for 7 in 39.4 overs chasing 220 runs for victory, Dav Whatmore’s men acquitted themselves well under pressure, with Raza combining well with the lower order to lead the team to a nervy win.
Raza, who scored an unbeaten 60 to guide Zimbabwe home with an over remaining, said Friday’s win had given belief to the players ahead of the rest of the series.
“This win will play a bigger role than what you see. You see that we have gone one-up against Ireland, but what I see is that it has given enough belief to the squad and we have got ourselves together,” Raza said.
“This will work in mysterious ways, especially in the change room. We will perform better when we find ourselves in difficult situations.”
Raza was also full of praise for Masakadza after the pair shared a crucial 38-run eight wicket partnership during the run chase before the debutant was run out for 10 runs.
The 22-year-old, who became the third of the Masakadza siblings to play for Zimbabwe, after batsman Hamilton and fast bowler Shingi, had earlier claimed two wickets for 45 and taken two catches in the field.
“I told him, sorry mate, because he called and I did not know where the ball was,” Raza said.
“He was batting beautifully. I mean the guy is on debut and has bowled well, has fielded his heart out. The last thing you need is for him to get out, and God forbid if we lose the game then a debutant is not in a good place.”
Zimbabwe are likely to keep faith in the team that played on Friday, although Malcolm Waller’s place is doubtful after having struggled for form in his last two ODIs with scores of one and eight.
With the Ireland cricket team well-known for their never die spirit, Zimbabwe will need to guard against complacency, lest they allow the tourists back into the series ahead of the third match on Tuesday.
While Ireland will bank on Gary Wilson, who top-scored with an unbeaten 70, and Ed Joyce, who made 53, the hosts will be looking to use the spin weapon to good effect against the tourists, who lost five of their wickets on Friday to the spinners.