Ireland are one step closer to the second phase of the World Cup finals after West Indies defeated Zimbabwe last night by six wickets.

The result, which guaranteed the hosts qualification for the Super Eights, means that unless Zimbabwe beat Pakistan back at Sabina Park tomorrow, Ireland will definitely be in the Caribbean for another three and a half weeks.

It wasn't as straightforward as the margin of victory would suggest for the Windies as Zimbabwe took wickets at regular intervals and reduced their more illustrious opponents to 129 for four after 33 overs.

But captain Brian Lara, dealing exclusively in singles for the first 13 runs of his innings and Dwayne Bravo saw West Indies home with a partnership of 75 and gave Ireland a taste of what they can expect when the teams meet in the final group game here on Friday. Lara finished the match with a glorious extra cover four and, next ball, a majestic six.

Lara's seventh single was his 1,000 World Cup run in his 27th match, at an average of 43.36. The entire Ireland team have scored 353 runs in the tournament. That is the difference in experience, but Ireland are learning fast.

Both Lara and Bravo enjoyed lives in the closing stages, one very hard, Bravo's skyer to third man straightforward, but with less than 20 runs wanted it scarcely mattered and the Ireland players, watching back in the team hotel, certainly were not complaining.

The highlight of the Windies innings was the 14th over as Chris Gayle threatened to emulate Herschelle Gibbs' feat three days earlier of six sixes in an over. The first hit the roof the North Stand, the second was pulled into the Party Stand and when Gayle drove the next ball straight and long, the stadium was rocking. Tawanda Mupariwa, however, delivered a perfect yorker next ball and the excitement was over.

Afterwards, Gayle confirmed his first maximum was the 'biggest six I've ever hit, but the roof was just too high'.

Sean Williams and Brendan Taylor both scored half centuries for Zimbabwe to take them past 200 but Ireland will be encouraged that the West Indies took only five wickets and they bowled 15 wides.

Scores: Zimbabwe 202-5 (50 overs, S Williams 70, B Taylor 50, E Chigumbura 30 not out) West Indies 204-5 (47.5 overs, B Lara 44 not out, C Gayle 40, D Bravo 37 not out).