Belfast Telegraph

Cricket: Ireland need to improve after Zimbabwe XI defeat

By Ian Callender

Ireland avoided a second innings embarrassment to easily draw the last game of their Intercontinental Cup campaign, but the Harare Sports Club will, henceforth, have its own ignominious place in the record books.

For the last 26 years, the West Indies’ awesome total of 584 at Rathmines was the nadir for Irish bowling, but when the Zimbabwe XI passed that yesterday, the class of 2010 went to the top of the unwanted list.

Yes, it was a pitch flatter than any field in Holland and Andre Botha, Boyd Rankin and Alex Cusack were missing from their first choice attack, but this was the Zimbabwe 2nd XI — only two will play in the one-day international series next week — and they batted nearly 40 overs more than Ireland’s optimum batting line-up.

William Porterfield refused to blame his bowlers, claiming “they all tried hard,” but the blanks in the wicket column beside opening bowler Allan Eastwood and front line spinner George Dockrell from a combined total of 49 overs was surely not what the captain expected.

Indeed, Andrew White and Paul Stirling conceded just two-and-a-half runs an over from their 40 overs as the other slow bowlers while Dockrell went at almost three-and-a-half. John Mooney did try hard and was rewarded with two wickets and Kevin O’Brien and dependable Trent Johnston equally shared the other eight wickets, O’Brien claiming the last two just in time to prevent Zimbabwe reaching 600.

Indeed, Ireland had to take a third new ball to finish the innings and the 173.2 overs spent in the field is yet another unwelcome record.

The formality of batting out 54 overs for the draw was just that although Paul Stirling failed for the second time in the match — he played on — and while Porterfield and Niall O’Brien put on a century stand for the second wicket — the only Irish one in the match (Zimbabwe had two plus one of 237) — still they couldn’t bat out the day.

Two of the Zimbabwe slow bowlers did what Ireland’s trio couldn’t, taking the wickets of Porterfield and Dockrell, while home captain Vusi Sibanda came on as his side’s eighth bowler to have Niall O’Brien caught.

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