THE green light has been given – for now – for Ireland to play three Twenty20 internationals and three one-day internationals in Zimbabwe at the start of next month.
Zimbabwe Cricket announced that the Queen’s Sports Club, Bulawayo will host the T20 games on April 2, 4 and 5 with the ODIs following on April 8, 10 and 12.
It is 29 years since Ireland played a capped game in Bulawayo – a 50 overs match against Matabeleland – although eight of the probable squad which will be heading to Zimbabwe this time played Scotland in a warm-up match at the Queen’s club ahead of the World Cup qualifying tournament in 2018.
Boyd Rankin took five wickets and current captain Andrew Balbirnie top scored with 79 before George Dockrell’s 47 not out won the game off the last ball by two wickets.
When Ireland played the hosts in Harare, two weeks later, however, they crashed to a 107 runs defeat and forced them into a winner-take-all game with Afghanistan to progress to the World Cup finals; the Afghans won by five wickets and Ireland missed out on England/Wales 2019.
Zimbabwe also won the last bilateral series in the country, a 2-1 ODI success in 2015 – all the games were played in Harare - but Ireland claimed revenge last year with a 3-0 clean sweep, their first against a fellow Full Member.
The Ireland squad begin a three-match T20 series against Afghanistan in India this morning and will be pleased that their first action in Zimbabwe will also be in the shortest format as the countdown to the T20 World Cup in Australia in October continues.
The tour, as with all sporting events currently, is dependent on the Coronavirus not spreading to the country.
There are no current advisories against travel to Zimbabwe but Cricket Ireland will take heed of government and sporting bodies’ advice.
Yesterday, the first case in South Africa, which has a northern border with Zimbabwe, was confirmed although all the other incidents in Africa have been in the north of the continent.