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Ian Callender

Ireland may have gone two down in their three-match series with Zimbabwe but there is still everything to play for in the last match at the Harare Sports Club on Thursday 30 September. A consolation victory it may be but for Ireland the world ranking points will keep their noses in front of Zimbabwe in 10th place - just a week after the ICC's Chief Executives' Committee proposed a 10-team World Cup in 2015.

Of more immediate concern to Ireland, however, will be runs for the majority of the batsmen and much more consistency from the bowlers. That was the fundamental reason behind Ireland's three wickets defeat after Zimbabwe chased 239 with seven balls to spare.

The Ireland total, 38 more than they scored in the first match which was lost off the last ball, was heavily dependent on just three batsmen. Paul Stirling with 52 (four fours and three sixes) from 49 balls at the top, Trent Johnston with 30 off 32 at the end and Kevin O'Brien who carried the innings to a memorable conclusion. He finished 73 not out from 102 but his last 38 came off 16 balls including all six boundaries. With just two overs to go, Ireland were sitting on 200 but first Johnston, with a huge six off Chris Mpofu in the penultimate over and then O'Brien with three more in the last, which yielded 24 runs, gave the visitors what, captain William Porterfield admitted afterwards thought, was a winning total.

If the bowlers had even repeated their spells on Sunday it would have been, but despite Zimbabwe scoring only nine off the first six overs - effectively turning it into a 44 overs match - their only danger of defeat was losing all 10 wickets. On the day, Ireland never looked like taking them. Indeed, only Kevin O'Brien managed more than one and even the return of Andre Botha proved a game too early, his three overs going for 21, although Porterfield confirmed it had nothing to do with his hand injury.

Such was the skippers's lack of pace options at the death - O'Brien and Mooney also having been hit out of the attack - he had to turn to George Dockrell, Albert van der Merwe and even Paul Stirling to bowl five of the last nine overs. It was van der Merwe who took the seventh wicket with Zimbabwe still 47 short of victory but captain Elton Chigumbura and Graame Cremer saw them home without further loss or scares.

At least this time Ireland's tail also wagged, the last three wickets seeing out the last 14 overs while adding 99, but then they had to, after poor shots by Porterfield and Niall O'Brien, Andrew White being stumped third ball and Gary Wilson's needless run-out.