Ireland may have gone two down in their three-match series with Zimbabwe but there is still everything to play for in the last match at the Harare Sports Club tomorrow.
A consolation victory it may be, but for Ireland the world ranking points will keep their noses in front of Zimbabwe in 10th place — just a week after the ICC’s Chief Executives’ Committee proposed a 10-team World Cup in 2015.
Of more immediate concern to Ireland, however, will be runs for the majority of the batsmen and much more consistency from the bowlers.
That was the fundamental reason behind their three wicket defeat yesterday after Zimbabwe chased 239 with seven balls to spare.
The Ireland total, 38 more than they scored in the first match which was lost off the last ball, was heavily dependent on just three batsmen. Paul Stirling with 52 from 49 balls at the top, Trent Johnston with 30 off 32 at the end and Kevin O’Brien who carried the innings to a memorable conclusion.
With just two overs to go, Ireland were sitting on 200 but first Johnston, with a huge six off Chris Mpofu in the penultimate over and then O’Brien with three more in the last, which yielded 24 runs, gave the visitors what, captain William Porterfield admitted afterwards thought, was a winning total.
If the bowlers had even repeated their spells on Sunday it would have been, but despite Zimbabwe scoring only nine off the first six overs, their only danger of defeat was losing all 10 wickets. On the day, Ireland never looked like taking them.
Indeed, only Kevin O’Brien managed more than one and even the return of Andre Botha proved a game too early, with his three overs going for 21.