Ireland Women’s bowling attack fell just short of pulling off a remarkable comeback victory, with Zimbabwe Women winning the first T20 of the five-match series with just four balls to spare.
Set a target of 102 off 20 overs, the Zimbabweans were cruising to victory, at one point needing just 15 runs off 36 balls with eight wickets in hand.
A combination of tight bowling by Rachel Delaney (0-13, 3.2 overs) and Isobel Joyce (1-6, 4 overs) particularly, pulled Zimbabwe back to make the game a tighter finish than it seemed possible.
Good support from debutant Cara Murray (2-19, 3 overs) and a first international wicket for debutant Vanessa Kelada (1-27, 3 overs) helped the cause, but it wasn’t until Joyce claimed the vital wicket of the experienced left-hander Precious Marange (14 off 23 balls) in the 18th over that Ireland’s self-belief rose.
Earlier in the day, Captain Mary Waldron played a breezy innings, striking two boundaries in the second over of the day, as part of a 30-run opening stand with Una Raymond-Hoey (13 off 18 balls) off the first five overs.
Waldron, who plays domestically for Malahide CC, ended her innings with 34 off just 33 balls – one run short of her highest score in this form of the game, maintaining a commendable average of 26 on the current tour to date.
Isobel Joyce again displayed her all-round abilities scoring 17 runs from 16 balls before being run out, and playing an instrumental role in pulling Ireland Women back into the contest late on – notably bowling a wicket maiden in the 18th over.
For the Zimbabweans, another stand-out bowling performance by Marange (2-9, 4 overs) helped restrict the Ireland total. Marange, who also plays rugby union in her spare time, across the two one-day matches and one T20 has sent down 24 overs taking five wickets and conceding just 41 runs in the process.
The two teams now re-group for the second T20 on Saturday. The match officials advised yesterday that the start of Saturday’s game will be brought forward to 10am local time (8am Ireland time), instead of the previously advertised 1pm start.
MATCH SUMMARY ZIMBABWE WOMEN v IRELAND WOMEN,
1st T20, Country Club, Harare
Ireland Women 101-7 (20 overs; M Waldron 34, I Joyce 17; P Marange 2-9)
Zimbabwe Women 105-4 (19.2 overs; A Ndiraya 32, C Mugeri 31*; C Murray 2-19)
Zimbabwe Women beat Ireland Women by 6 wickets and lead the five-match series 1-0