Murtagh lands a high five as Ireland seal series win
Tim Murtagh's first five-wicket haul for Ireland clinched the three-match one-day international series against Zimbabwe with a game to spare and give William Porterfield's side back to back wins for the first time in 16 months.
But what a scare they got. Seemingly in control after Murtagh's early burst had reduced the Zimbabweans to 14-3, and again at 160-7, in pursuit of Ireland's 242-9, an eighth wicket stand of 68 between Ryan Burl and Donald Tiripano took the visitors to within 15 of victory with two overs remaining.
But Porterfield still had one ace up his sleeve.
Murtagh has not always been at his economical best at the death for Ireland but this was his day and he conceded a solitary single off his first four balls from his final over. The pressure was back on Zimbabwe with the runs required still 14 but now with just eight balls left.
Next ball was full and straight, Tiripano missed and the ball clipped the bails to leave Zimbabwe eight wickets down.
But Burl was still there in and strike at the start of the last over. The No.7 batsman had made his highest ODI score of 49 not out in Monday's first game at Bready and here he was 46 not out with six balls remaining.
Mark Adair, in his eighth ODI, just two months after his first, was entrusted with the 50th over. Burl hit the second ball for two and the third to the square leg boundary and suddenly it was eight needed from three balls. But the 23-year-old paceman, to his credit, stormed back, to produce a superb yorker next ball, and put the pressure back on Burl. Now it was eight off two.
The fifth ball was turned to deep mid-wicket and in normal circumstances Zimbabwe would have been quite happy to take the single. But here, Burl had to come for the second and keep the strike for the final ball. But Shane Getkate's throw was good enough and Lorcan Tucker threw down the stumps with the batsman's dive for the crease in vain.
Tendai Chatara could still have earned his side a tie with a six from the last ball but despite it being a full toss, the No.11 could only hit it tamely towards the long-off boundary, ringed with fielders, and Ireland had their first home series win since they beat Scotland in 2014.
Although Murtagh had bowled the match-winning over, he gave a special mention to Adair after the match.
"That's as impressive a final over from a youngster that I've seen," said the Middlesex professional. "I've been in that situation and lost the game for whatever team I was playing for so for him to nail two or three very good yorkers and execute his plans was very impressive."
After the start that Paul Stirling and James McCollum had given the home team, however, the finish should really not have been so close.
An opening stand of 111 in 24 overs - during which Stirling became the first Ireland batsman to score 4,000 ODI runs - could be the making of McCollum who finished top scorer with 73.
The Waringstown opener not only hit 11 boundaries, but also outlasted Stirling, caught at mid-wicket immediately after reaching his sixth consecutive ODI 50, and the much more experienced Andrew Balbirnie who was caught behind for just nine.
William Porterfield and, to yet another loose shot early in his innings, Kevin O'Brien failed to make meaningful contributions and as wickets fell around him - five in the last 10 overs - Lorcan Tucker scored his first international 50 from just 45 balls.
It was always going to take something special to defend 242 and Murtagh produced it in a spell of three wickets for one run in 11 deliveries with the new ball, including Brendan Taylor, lbw to his first ball. Sean Williams survived the hat-trick and finished top scorer with 58 while Tucker will be relieved to have got a second chance to dismiss the dangerous Craig Ervine for 43, just 10 runs after spilling a straightforward chance off Getkate.
Boyd Rankin came back to take the vital wicket of Sikander Raza - his first of the series - but the parsimonious bowling of Kevin O'Brien, who conceded just 14 runs from his first five overs, proved just as important, in the end, as Murtagh's wickets.
Now to complete a 3-0 whitewash back at Stormont on Sunday.
P Stirling c Williams b Mire 52
J McCollum c Raza b Mire 73
A Balbirnie c Taylor b Mire 9
W Porterfield c Williams b Raza 20
K O'Brien c Williams b Mire 6
L Tucker c Williams b Jarvin 56
S Getkate b Williams 7
M Adair c Mutumbami b Williams 3
A McBrine lbw b Raza 4
T Murtagh not out 2
B Rankin not out 1
Extras (1b 2lb 6w) 9
Total (9 wkts, 50 overs) 242
Fall: 1-111 2-140 3-147 4-154 5-188 6-206 7-212 8-233 9-241
Bowling: K Jarvis 8-1-29-1, T Chatara 7-0-33-0, D Tiripano 7-1-36-0, S Williams 8-0-43-2, R Burl 4-0-27-0, S Mire 8-1-43-4, Sikander Raza 8-1-28-2
H Mazakadza b Murtagh 4
S Mire c Tucker b Murtagh 4
C Ervine C Tucker b Getkate 43
B Taylor lbw b Murtagh 0
S Williams c Balbirnie b Murtagh 58
Sikander Raza c O'Brien b Rankin 31
R Burl run out 53
R Mutumbami c Tucker b Getkate 2
D Tiripano b Murtagh 33
K Jarvis not out 0
T Chatara not out 1
Extras (4lb 4w) 8
Total (9 wkts, 50 overs) 237
Fall: 1-4 2-14 3-14 4-70 5-127 6-157 7-160 8-229 9-236
Bowling: T Murtagh 10-1-21-5, M Adair 10-0-52-0, B Rankin 10-0-44-1, S Getkate 10-0-57-2, A McBrine 4-0-36-0, K O'Brien 6-0-23-0
Ireland won by five runs