Tour to Zimbabwe in the winter of 1985-1986.
No such tour as this had taken place since that to the USA and Canada in the autumn of 1973. A proposed tour to India in January 1983 did not take place. The players were anxious to make a three-week tour and agreed to pay half the travel and hotel costs. The TCCB suggested Zimbabwe who readily agreed to receive a tour. After various options a departure date of 28th of December 1985 was fixed.
The Zimbabwe Cricket Union passed the arrangements on to the Mashonaland Country Districts Association. Their Chairman, John Hick made all the fixtures and tour arrangements. 8 nights were spent in the Jameson Hotel in Harare, 2 in the Zambezi Hotel at Victoria Falls, 4 in the Holiday Inn in Bulawayo, 1 (free) in the Hwange Colliery Guest House and 6 nights in private accommodation.
8 matches were played, comprising 13 days cricket. Two matches, both one-day limited overs games, were not reckoned to be "cap" matches. These were the first match of the tour against Hwange Selected XI and the fourth match of the tour against Zimbabwe Schools.
Of the 19 players who played for Ireland in 1985, three were not available, Corlett, Rea and Wills. Of the remaining 16 Anderson was not selected, nor were Bailey and Harrison. When Elder cried off the selected 15, Harrison took his place. Two uncapped players were selected - RS Haire and DA Vincent.
The president, FA Malin, was unable to travel and was replaced by President-Elect M Bannigan. A Linehan was the cricket manager, Derek Scott (Honorary Secretary Irish Cricket Union) the administration manager and E McCann (Chairman of Selectors in 1985) was the fourth official and he also reported for the Irish Times. Four others came with the official party as supporters and were kindly regarded as part of the party at each stopping place. They were HD Cashell (President ICU 1981), B Burke (Phoenix) JWG Elder (a selected player who, though through injury had to cry off), and JD Monteith, the former Irish captain. The latter reported for BBC Northern Ireland and for the "Belfast Newsletter".
The party arrived at Harare at 6 AM on Sunday, December 29 to be met by eight Zimbabwe officials with cars and trucks to move the party to the Jameson Hotel. DA Lewis, spending a cricketing winter in Sydney, had arrived two days early. After a practice session on Monday, the party moved to Victoria Falls on Tuesday. Cricket began on Thursday, January 2 at Hwange after a 40 mile drive in pouring rain.
Play was delayed for two hours (until 11:30 AM) and the match reduced to 45 overs. The Irish party was rusty and did well to tie the match. Having lost the toss Ireland were put in and scored 140 in 42 overs, on a pitch of variable bounce. Warke made 34 and Jackson a much-needed 34 not out at number eight. He suffered sunstroke and could not play again for nine days.
Hwange were 53-1, 99-3 126-4. 22 were needed in six overs but the team then held Hwange well. Six were needed in the last over and the scores were level after five balls of that over. The last ball was swung at and missed. An outdoor party followed and the night was spent free of charge in the Colliery Guest House - the area was a coal mine.
On to Bulawayo the next day by air. Practice, scheduled for the afternoon, was impossible due to rain. The party stayed for four nights in the Holiday Inn Hotel. The Hwange organiser for the tour was Peter Radloff.
The overnight rain had got under the tarpaulin covers and the start was delayed from 9:30 AM to 11:20 AM, with 15 minutes added to the closing time, now 6:15 PM. Haire, Dennison, McDevitt and Jackson (ill) were left out of the team. DA Vincent, the diminutive 21-year-old Clontarf left-hander, was given his first cap and also deputed to keep wicket. The pitch was wet in places but slow.
Matabeleland won the toss and Ireland were put in to bat. McLennan took a wicket in his first over, the second of the match. Masood played too soon and was caught at gully. 8-1-5. The other opening bowler, Bezuidenhout who had played at Hwange, took a wicket in the next over. Warke whipped a short ball off his legs and was well held at square leg. 10-2-4. Vincent joined Cohen and both played well and carefully to retrieve the bad start. Both were dropped when the score was in the 50s, the unfortunate bowler in each case being Smith.
By lunch, at 1:15 PM, the score was 83-2 (Cohen 34, Vincent 35). Van Rensburg, an offspinner, came on after lunch, the sixth bowler to be used. In his second over Vincent failed to get to the pitch of the ball and was caught at mid-off. 86-3-36. Vincent had hit a six and two fours, and batted 109 minutes. Lewis played well for a while but he, too, failed to get to the pitch off van Rensburg and was caught at extra cover. 111-4-12.
Cohen reached 50 in 153 minutes of good defensive play interlaced with shots. He was out for 53 caught off van Rensburg. 136-5-53. Patterson hit a four which was a dropped catch and then gave van Rensburg his fourth wicket in 11 overs - caught at mid-wicket. 152-6-6. This was not really Prior's scene, with a slow pitch and the slow bowlers on. But how well he played after settling in. By tea, after 55 overs, the score was 172-6, Prior 34, Harrison 7. It was now raining again but play resumed 27 minutes later, tea had been taken early because of the rain. Prior arrived at 50 in 81 minutes and then really hit out. He got 75, with three sixes off Viljeon, in 99 minutes before being bowled off a full toss from McLennan. Harrison played second fiddle very well and the stand was 90 in only 63 minutes. On Prior's dismissal came the declaration after 67.3 overs. Van Rensburg had 4-47 in 15 overs and McLennan 2-32 in 14.3.
The cloud cover was now very low and there was thunder and lightning but, by a miracle, no rain fell on the ground. With 80 minutes to go Querl and van Rensburg opened to the bowling of Milling and Patterson. In the first over Vincent dropped van Rensburg, a straightforward chance when standing back. Halliday bowled the eighth over and McBrine the 11th. The scoring rate quickly came down to a very slow rate. Then three wickets fell in five overs. Halliday bowled van Rensburg (20) with the score on 32 - he played on. At 34 Querl was caught at mid-off from the bowling of McBrine and at 36 Halliday bowled McLennon. Viljeon (7) and Martin (15) played out the day at 57-3 in 29 overs, the last of which had been bowled by Milling.
On the next day (Sunday) Halliday and McBrine routed Matabeleland for 99 in another 20.4 overs. The last seven wickets fell for 37, and Matabeleland failed to save the follow-on by 44 runs. The day was pleasant weatherwise. Harrison was ill and permission was given for Dennison to come on and keep wicket. Dennison had, in fact, dropped out of the team the previous day after the match started. He had felt unwell. Lewis (now unable to bowl) had come in and hence Vincent's wicket-keeping.
At 62 Viljeon lobbed McBrine over Halliday at mid-on. Halliday jumped and made a fine one-handed catch. 62-4-11. One run later Halliday bowled Clarke from a ball which kept low and turned. In his next over Halliday had Smith easily caught at short-leg playing forward. Martin, in the next over, failed to get to the pitch of McBrine and was caught and bowled for 20. 67-7.
At 82 Prior made another easy catch at point to dismiss James off McBrine. Halliday took the last two wickets. At 93 Garden made a big hit to mid-wicket where Warke made ground and caught it over his left shoulder. Reynolds meanwhile had been hitting out. He hit two sixes, one off each bowler, and then swung and missed at Halliday. The 23 scored by Reynolds was the highest score and the spinners had taken all 10 wickets.
Play had started at 9:18 AM. At 10:31 AM Querl and van Rensburg were starting again in the follow-on. This was a much better effort and lasted 81.5 overs. At one stage Matabeleland were 177-4, 34 runs ahead with three hours left. Milling and Patterson bowled six perfunctory overs. McBrine bowled the seventh over and Halliday the eighth. Van Rensburg swung and missed at Halliday's third ball. 17-1-30.
There was a tea break (18 minutes) after 15 overs with the score on 44-1, Querl 13 Martin 18. They had hit five fours between them off loose deliveries. The spinners changed ends. 50 came up in 20 overs. The stand put on 70. Patterson was recalled and had Martin LBW for 48 in his second over. Six runs later Halliday had Querl caught at short square leg for 30. Both he and Martin had batted well.
In his next over Clarke lobbed a ball from Halliday to McBrine at short mid-wicket. 101-4-0. Viljeon (who hit McBrine for six) and James played well until lunch which was taken at 126-4 after 49 overs. Viljeon was 25 and James 10. Halliday and McBrine wheeled away but could make no impression on these two batsmen. 150 came up in 59 overs.
Eventually, in the 170's, after a few overs by Prior, Patterson and Milling were recalled. In his second over Milling had Viljeon (39) caught by substitute wicket-keeper Dennison. The pair had added 76 in 74 minutes. It was now a matter of whether the tail could stay with James to save the match. The score was 177-5. Smith did so for a while and 24 were put on. Then the last five wickets fell to Halliday and McBrine for the addition of 17 runs leaving James 59 not out in 129 minutes - a splendid chanceless innings.
Halliday came back at 201 and had Smith LBW at once. McBrine had also returned and in two overs took 3-12. He bowled Reynolds for 3 and had McLennan caught at point for 0. Garden hit him for 10 in his next over. He lifted the last ball to deep mid-wicket where Cohen made a fine running catch. Halliday bowled Bezuidenhout in the next over. Halliday ended with figures of 5-72 in 31.5 overs.
There were 110 minutes left when Masood and Warke began after tea. They needed 76 runs to win and got them in 14.1 overs. Masood was in great form. He hit two sixes and five fours and his second six carried him from 47 to 53 made in 52 minutes. A reception for both teams was held in Bulawayo Golf Club on the first evening of the match.