Harry Tector produced his finest all-round performance for Ireland in Harare yesterday but it wasn’t enough to get the Boys in Green over the line as Zimbabwe won a third-match thriller by four wickets to take the T20 series 2-1.
Tector top-scored with 47 in an Ireland total of 141-9 and then grabbed his fifth wicket of the series in a superbly controlled spell of 1-14 but Ryan Burl’s six-six-four onslaught in the 18th over turned the tide and the hosts got home with an over to spare.
“We probably left a few runs out there,” skipper Andy Balbirnie said. “But we were pretty happy at the halfway stage because we’ve seen over the past week that if you bowl well you get your rewards.
“We saw in all three games that the team who won the toss won the match but I don’t think that made a huge difference - I just think Zim adapted better than us to the conditions.”
Put into bat, Ireland lost three wickets in the first four overs, including opener Ross Adair whose muscular 65 in his second international on Saturday had helped the visitors to a six-wicket victory that squared the series.
Tector and Curtis Campher added 70 in good time to repair the damage and when they were dismissed in successive overs George Dockrell and Mark Adair batted intelligently to post a score that should have been defendable on another slow pitch.
Despite the odd wayward over from the seamers, Tector, Dockrell and leg-spinner Ben White, who took 2-26, kept Ireland in control and when the excellent Mark Adair had Craig Ervine caught for 54 at the end of the 17th over, Zimbabwe still needed 26.
Burl, who was Player of the Series, then showed why he is such a useful all-rounder as he struck Dockrell for consecutive sixes over long on, followed by a whipped four backward of square. Ireland will be wary of his threat when the three-match ODI series starts on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, across the border in South Africa, Annabel Squires struck 42 as Ireland gave the West Indies a scare in their opening group game of the U19 World Cup before losing by eight runs in Potchefstroom.
Freya Sargent took 2-9 and Aimee Maguire claimed the other wicket to fall as the West Indies were restricted to 125-3, a total Ireland were on course to eclipse but then fell away to finish on 117-7.