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Match Report

Ireland recorded a nail-biting win over Zimbabwe at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Saturday and in the process gave themselves a wonderful chance of qualifying for the quarter finals of this year's World Cup. The margin of victory was just 5 runs but this was a game that swung one way then the other before Ireland got over the line with just inches to spare.

Coach Phil Simmons made just one change as Max Sorensen made way for Alex Cusack while Zimbabwe were without influential skipper Elton Chigumbura who was ruled out through injury. Stand-in captain Brendan Taylor won the toss and put Ireland in and it looked a good call as the openers struggled with the pace of the pitch early on.

Tinashe Panyangara provided the breakthrough as he got Paul Stirling (10) to cut one straight to Sean Williams at point with the score on 16 bringing Ed Joyce to the middle. William Porterfield dug deep at the other end but was never at his fluent best as this pair added a patient 63 in the next 17 overs. The skipper's resistance was ended when Williams had him caught by Hamilton Masakadza for a 60-ball 29 as Ireland reached the 20-over stage at 79-2.

It could have been worse too as Tawanda Mupariwa missed a glorious chance to catch Joyce off his own bowling when the left hander was on 34 and the Strabane overseas player was made to pay for his error. Joyce and Andrew Balbirnie set about giving their side a real platform, quietly at first and then picking up the pace once they were both in.

Joyce went to 50 in good time and backed by his batting partner he was soon on his way to three figures. Balbirnie also reached his half century as Ireland took a real hold in the contest- the partnership only finally broken in the 39th over when Tendai Chatara bluffed Joyce with a slow full toss that he looped to Craig Ervine at mid-on. Joyce's final tally was 112 (9 fours and 3 sixes); another quality effort from him that helped push the score 217 for 3.

Kevin O'Brien was promoted up the order into a pinch-hitter role and a cameo of 24 from 22 balls moved it on to 276 for 4 before he was out chasing a wide one. Gary Wilson hit 3 fours and a six in his 13-ball 25 before a flurry of wickets stopped Ireland pushing on to a really huge total.

Balbirnie had moved to 96 at the start of the final over but was denied a thoroughly deserved century when run out attempting a chancy second from the first ball. His knock included 7 fours and a six and came off just 79 balls; a superb effort that allowed the innings to close on 331 for 8- Ireland's biggest ever World Cup total. To be fair to Zimbabwe they closed it out well at the death, Chatara (3-61) and Williams (3-72) the pick of the attack while Mupariwa also bowled well for his 0-56 from 10.

The reply was almost a mirror image of the first innings- Taylor's men being really pinned back by Ireland early as the bowlers got to work. John Mooney got them on the board as he removed Sikandar Raza for 12 and in the next over Cusack had Chamu Chibabha caught by Porterfield for 18. Kevin O'Brien got in on the act; dismissing Masakadza for 5 and when George Dockrell did for Solomon Mire soon after, Zimbabwe were in real bother at 74-4.

Just as happened earlier however a big partnership between Williams and Taylor began to eat considerably into Ireland's advantage. The skipper looked in brilliant touch- keeping the board ticking over quickly without ever presenting a chance to the bowlers. This pair added an excellent 149 before Taylor was bamboozled by a slower ball from Cusack and lobbed it straight into the grateful hands of Kevin O'Brien. His contribution was 121 off 91 balls, including 11 fours and 4 sixes but his demise let Ireland back in.

Williams was going strong but the reintroduction of Andy McBrine into the attack saw the pendulum swing again as the North West Warriors skipper proved too clever for Craig Ervine (12). You sensed Williams was the key and O'Brien only just missed the chance to run him out on 96. Moments later the game took yet another turn however as John Mooney took a superb catch right on the boundary and the dangerous Williams was gone without adding to that score.

Porterfield caught Panyangara straight afterwards before Mupariwa took 19 from Kevin O'Brien in the 49th to drag the game away from Ireland once more. Into the last over and Cusack set up the grandstand finish by bowling Regis Chakabva with the first ball to leave it 325-9 and two balls later he finished it by having Mupariwa caught by Porterfield for 18 from 7 deliveries.

Cusack bowled brilliantly, vindicating Simmons' decision to bring him in, his 4-32 just as crucial to the win as Joyce and Balbirnie were with the bat. Mooney with 2-58 offered excellent support and despite being very expensive, O'Brien's two wickets were also vital. The two spinners, McBrine and Dockrell both returned figures of 1-56 and both did the job the skipper had asked of them.

Pakistan's win over South Africa was a slight fly in the ointment but Phil Simmons' side now needs to win one of their final two group games- against India and Pakistan next week- to ensure qualification for the last eight.