Ireland turn up heat to stun Zimbabwe
It has already been suggested that if Ireland beat both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, the two Full Members closest to them in the rankings, then a result against either Australia or West Indies in the World Twenty20 proper will be a bonus.
Well, the first leg of the warm-up double was achieved in impressive style at the Moors Sports Club, albeit against a Zimbabwe team that had arrived in Sri Lanka only 36 hours earlier.
Their lack of acclimatisation was evident against an Ireland side which was playing its third match in five days after more than a week getting used to the heat and humidity of Colombo.
Even the well travelled Ed Joyce described it as the hottest day in which he has ever played cricket.
Still, to post 180 for five in 20 overs and then restrict Zimbabwe to 127 for eight — they were 83 for eight — continued their match-by-match improvement, the third successive victory never in doubt.
All the batsmen bar Gary Wilson scored at a strike rate in excess of 100 during the Ireland innings, which lasted 95 minutes.
Niall O’Brien’s 62 was the biggest and brother Kevin’s the quickest, 30 off 15.
Zimbabwe were on the back foot from the first ball of their innings which Boyd Rankin unerringly pitched full and on the stumps before crashing into Vusi Sibanda’s pads. However, opening partner Hamilton Mazakadza and Craig Ervine, formerly of Lisburn, got them to 74 for two in the ninth over. Zimbabwe were 77 for seven and Alex Cusack, who instantly found an almost unplayable length, took three for six in three overs and George Dockrell’s last 14 balls cost just four runs and he also claimed three wickets.
“The first over is pretty crucial to set the tone for the rest of the match and I’ve been concentrating on bowling slightly fuller,” said Rankin.