Ireland's 13-match unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt yesterday when Zimbabwe played like the billionaires they are to win the opening contest in the Triangular Series in Kenya by a massive 156 runs. National Coach Phil Simmons described the Ireland's performance as a joke, unable to hide his disappointment after watching his powerful batting line-up crash to 17-3, 72-6 and 147 all out in reply to Zimbabwe's 303-8.
"For me it's worse than New Zealand and Scotland (when they crashed to back to back defeats in Aberdeen at the beginning of July) because we have a stronger team here. It hurts more because of that" he said before adding "you're always going to have a bad day or two and let us hope this is ours. The guys understand today was a joke but the tournament is still open and we need to come back tomorrow (against the hosts) and win to be still in it. "
Peter Connell's ODI debut was against New Zealand in Scotland when he conceded 95 runs in nine overs. Those memories returned to haunt him three overs into yesterday's game on another flat Gymkhana pitch, which disappeared for 27. With Boyd Rankin's first four overs at the other end going for 38, Zimbabwe helped themselves to 71 from the first eight overs. Ireland never recovered.
Hamilton Masakadza, the Zimbabwe opening batsman, went past his eighth ODI 50 in just 32 balls with his 11th four, having already hit a six off the hopeless Connell. It didn't help that Alex Cusack was not at his best when he tried to stem the onslaught in the last 17 overs and it was left to the dependable trio of Trench Johnston, Andre Botha and Kyle McCallan to keep the cash-strapped Africans in check. Their 30 overs cost just 131 runs, more than acceptable on such a pitch.
The Ireland's batting was later undone by no fewer than five slow bowlers. The off spinner snared two of them, William Porterfield, caught at cover for 10, and Botha, stumped, again, for 21.