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Craig Ervine and Sean Williams cracked fifties as Zimbabwe closed their European tour with an eight-wicket win over Ireland at Bready Cricket Club. Ervine hit four sixes in a career best 68 not out, while Williams equalled his top score in this format with 58. Together they put on 111 for the third wicket - a Zimbabwean record stand for any wicket in this format - in just over 10 overs to help Zimbabwe chase down Ireland's 171 for 9 with more than three overs to spare. Having lost the ODIs 3-0, Zimbabwe's victory levelled the T20 series 1-1.
The left-handers do it again
Zimbabwe were yet to win a game on tour until Sunday. The poor results weren't due to lack of runs from their left-handed duo, however. Williams' 153 runs in the ODIs were second only to Ervine's 156. Also, Ervine's innings on Sunday meant he also topped the T20 run charts.
Yet, the result could've been different for Ervine, who came in after Hamilton Masaksdza fell for a four-ball duck. He was caught behind off Mark Adair and should've been walking back, but for a no-ball because Ireland had only three men outside the circle. Five balls later, he offered another chance with a top edge, which wasn't taken. And the runs flowed thereafter.
Building on Brendan Taylor's rapid start to the innings, Ervine and Williams cruised through their partnership at 10-an-over. Ervine was first to his fifty, in the 13th over, Williams raising his own half century an over later. It was also Ervine who hit the winning runs, closing out the game on the same ground at which he opened Zimbabwe's Ireland tour with a hundred.
Zimbabwe claim the Powerplay
He was watching from the other end when Ervine hit the winning runs, but Williams played a first hand role in Zimbabwe's perfect start when he bowled Paul Stirling through the gate with the first ball of the match. Kevin O'Brien and Gary Wilson set about repairing the innings with a 44-run stand before a double strike in Kyle Jarvis' second over put Zimbabwe back in control.
O'Brien skewed a big shot high over the cover field to be well caught by Richmond Mutumbami, running backwards, for 22. A leg bye put Lorcan Tucker on strike, and Jarvis nipped a full one in to hit his pad in front of the stumps and dismiss him first ball. Having been in good shape at 44 for 1, Ireland ended the Powerplay at 45 for 3 and had to repair their innings once more.
Mind the windows, Gareth
Gary Wilson's 47 and Greg Thompson's 32 kept Ireland ticking, but it was Adair, Shane Getkate and Gareth Delaney's hitting at the death that gave the Irish innings some oomph. Adair belted four sixes, including back to back hits over the leg side boundary off Jarvis, before he was caught via a top edged hook for 38.
Delaney dabbed the very first ball he faced, from Chris Mpofu, deftly to the third man boundary, while Getkate got going with a big hit that was parried over the midwicket boundary for six and Ireland were set to launch at 159 for 6 with an over to go.
But three wickets in that final over, bowled by Tendai Chatara, stalled Ireland's charge somewhat. Amid the carnage, Delaney still found time to biff Chatara for one of the bigger hits of the day, stepping back to smear a short one way over midwicket and straight through the window outside the clubhouse bar. Yet, these efforts didn't quite do it for Ireland on the face of the Williams and Ervine charge.