Dennis Streak is bowled by Hugh Milling
Turk Mine, January 1986

The first Irish Tour to Zimbabwe took place in 1986. A second followed in 1991, the year before the home country's entry into the Test arena. Ireland also took part in a 6 nation tournament in Harare in April this year and the current games in Dublin are the first occasion on which we have been able to return their tremendous hospitality.

The 1986 trip, under the captaincy of Michael Halliday of Phoenix CC in Dublin, was a wonderful experience. From Harare we flew to Victoria Falls where we spent two days enjoying such delights as the Sundowner Booze Cruise up the Zambezi, the crocodile farm, the 'Flight of Angels' in a light aircraft above the Falls, the casino, the arch-colonial Victoria Falls Hotel and finally a walk, following in the steps of David Livingstone, along the rim of the mighty Falls themselves. This experience is indescribable and can only be understood by actually being there.

From Victoria Falls we drove down to Hwange, the site of the biggest open face coal mine in the world, where we played Ireland's first ever game in Africa. Paul Jackson became ill from heat exhaustion. On to Bulawayo to play against Matabeleland and to take a trip to the Matopos Hills where piles of granite make up weird shapes in the landscape. Cecil Rhodes is buried here in a granite tomb on a mountain top in an area called 'The View of the World'. On a clear day one can see for miles over the vast and beautiful southern African landscape.

Back to Harare and games against Mashonaland Country Districts at Norton and at Harare Country Club against Zimbabwe's equivalent of the Leprechauns, the Stragglers - including Graeme Hick 150 not out and Dave Houghton - at Harare Country Club, and against Zimbabwe Schools who included Andy Flower. During this period we had a memorable trip to Wedza for a game against the Country Districts and a visit to Imire Game Park, the highlights of which were watching a keeper feed a fully grown crocodile by hand at the side of its lake and eating wildebeest steaks al fresco on a mountainside.

We returned to Harare to play the Zimbabwe national side. This was a famous game in which Graeme Hick scored a triple century and John Prior will always be remembered for dropping a simple chance off him when he had scored just 17. Ireland actually played well, despite losing the game, Jim Patterson of Downpatrick scoring an excellent 69 after which he was dropped and didn't play again for 3 years. Another strange piece of selection occurred during and after that tour. At Wedza, John McDevitt took five wickets in the Mashonaland Country Districts innings and never played for Ireland again. Robin Haire of North Down enjoyed a promising start to his Irish career, but was never picked again after the tour!

Zimbabwe XI v Ireland, Harare, March 1991

The second visit to Zimbabwe was in 1991, - one year before Zimbabwe achieved test status. Ireland's visit was considered in Zimbabwe to be very important to their Test bid and they have been grateful to us ever since. The pattern of our visit was very similar to the earlier one but the highlight for me was our return visit to Turk Mine, near Bulawayo. Turk Mine is reputed to have been one of King Solomon's mines, of Rider Haggard fame, and gold is still found there. Des Cashell and I were hosted by David Williams, the owner of the mine, who was immediately added to Des's list of names to be dropped! Most of the rest of the party were hosted by Denis Streak, father of Heath, on his farm. He had created a cricket ground out of the bush on his own land and over the years has added a picturesque pavilion, chalets and bowling green in the most beautiful setting imaginable.

Zimbabwe A v Ireland, Harare Sports Club, April 2000

Our final visit in April this year was perhaps the least memorable and, due to the civil unrest, we really only saw the hotel and cricket grounds in the capital, Harare. However, founded on these Irish tours there has been a lot of cricketing interaction between the two countries. The Grasshoppers, our own private touring team, visited Zimbabwe in 1987 under David Napier, in 1990 with the captaincy shared between Ian Rankin and Ivan Connelly and also in 1995 under Sam Beckett. Mashonaland Country Districts toured Ireland in 1989 and Graeme Hick's home club, Trelawney, came in 1990.

On Ireland's first essay into the ICC Trophy in Kenya in 1994 we used Dave Houghton, the former Zimbabwe captain, as our coach. More locally, Bangor have used Gavin Rennie and Alex Taylor, Zimbabweans both, as their overseas players.