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Match Report

Tim Murtagh guided Ireland to a nervy two wicket win in the final game of their three match ODI series against Zimbabwe in Harare.

Murtagh followed up his four wicket haul with an unbeaten 19, sharing an unbroken 9th wicket stand of 29 with Andy McBrine (14*).

Murtagh's best bowling figures in an ODI saw Zimbabwe collapse from 159 for 4 to 187 all out - losing their last six wickets for just 28 runs.

Craig Young (1-35) - replacing John Mooney in the starting line-up - got the Irish off to a dream start by claiming a wicket in the first over after skipper William Porterfield won the toss.

Sean Williams stroked 8 boundaries in a fluent 51 before being dismissed by Paul Stirling (1-17), and at 88 for 4 the contest was finally balanced.

Zimbabwean skipper Elton Chigumburu and the ever consistent Sikandar Raza added 71 for the fifth wicket, before Andrew Balbirnie held a fine catch on the boundary to account for Chigumburu (34).

The dangerous Raza fell immediately after reaching his half century (56 balls, 4 fours, 1 six) to an injudicious stroke - Murtagh again the successful bowler.

George Dockrell then secured two brilliant run outs in the space of six balls as the Zimbabwean innings imploded. Kevin O'Brien (1-14) wrapped up the Zimbabwean innings on what looked a well below par 187 at the half-way stage.

William Porterfield got the Irish run chase off to a blistering start as 18 runs came off the first over, but fell soon after for a run-a-ball 20 (3 fours).

Ed Joyce (7) went cheaply, but the Middlesex pairing of Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie looked to be steering Ireland towards a comfortable win as they added 48 to take Ireland to 94 for 2 approaching the half-way stage.

However Balbirnie (24) ran himself out for the second game in succession, and when Niall O'Brien fell cheaply soon after the contest was once again finely balanced.

A restrained Stirling reached his 50 from 92 balls (4 fours), and when Gary Wilson (19), Kevin O'Brien (10) and George Dockrell (13) were all dismissed despite getting starts, Zimbabwe had edged ahead with Ireland on 160 for 8.

Step forward the 'Lambeth Lara' aka Tim Murtagh, who settled the Irish nerves with two boundaries in his 19 not out, helping secure the vital win in conjunction with Donemana's Andy McBrine who played another crucial cameo.

The consolation win keeps Ireland in 11th place in the ICC rankings - just ahead of Afghanistan who start their series against Zimbabwe later this week.

The Irish are next in action on Saturday when they start their four-day match against Zimbabwe A. That game is being used as preparation for the InterContintental Cup game against Namibia which gets under way in Windhoek on Saturday October 24th.

Ian Callender (Irish Daily Mail) reports:

Tim Murtagh and Andy McBrine saved their batsmen from embarrassment as they got Ireland over the line in the final one-day international against Zimbabwe in Harare.

An unbroken ninth wicket stand of 29 gave Ireland a dramatic victory and although losing the series 2-1, it kept them within touching distance of their victors in the ODI table.

Captain William Porterfield, who won the toss for the first time, admitted it made a big difference but he praised his attack for a much improved bowling performance in which Murtagh (4-32) was also the star, as Zimbabwe were dismissed for 187.

"It would have been nice to see Murts get a "five-for' but Craig Young did well in his first game and the spinners also improved. It was a well-rounded performance from all six," said Porterfield.

"Unfortunately we lost wickets which kept the pressure on us but (George) Dockrell, (Andy) McBrine and Murts can take a lot from this game with their batting and bowling."

Ireland collapsed from 94 for two with only Paul Stirling of the main batsmen standing up to the test. The normally free-scoring opener compiled one of his slowest ever half centuries, from 90 balls with just four boundaries, but on a slower surface than the first two games, it was just what was required. Unfortunately, two balls after reaching his landmark, he gloved one to the keeper and when in-form Gary Wilson (19) top edged a sweep shot and Kevin O'Brien (10) holed out on the mid-wicket boundary, Ireland were in trouble.

But George Dockrell (13) led the recovery with two defiant boundaries and after he fended a short ball to gully, McBrine (14 not out) and Murtagh (19 not out), finished the job with three boundaries and 19 balls to spare. It is an almost unique feature of the Harare Sports Club that captains winning the toss think they should bat first but then inevitably decide to field, certain that the pitch will just get flatter as the day goes on, and the best of the movement is in the early stages.

Craig Young, called up for his first match of the tour, in place of John Mooney, was certainly grateful to be bowling first and with his fourth ball he tempted Richmond Mutumbami into a drive, found the edge and it went straight to the safe hands of the skipper at backward point.

Unfortunately, a second wicket continues to elude Young, as it has done in each of the last four games he has made a breakthrough, but he more than justified his recall and having taken 13 wickets in his only two red-ball games for Ireland he must surely start in the Intercontinental Cup against Namibia.

Tim Murtagh is a certain starter - and the "old man' will probably be rested for the warm-up game against Zimbabwe A, starting on Saturday, after finishing with his best ODI figures, with the dismissals of Zim captain Elton Chigumburu and man of the series Sikander Raza in the space of four balls the highlight of his 10 overs spell.

Murtagh took his fourth wicket in his ninth over, a catch to mid-off, but that was as good as it got and Kevin O'Brien, who had to bowl only five overs, wrapped up the innings with four balls of the innings remaining. Paul Stirling, boosted by a wicket with his sixth ball, was unlucky to get only five overs - a brave call by Porterfield to take him out of the attack after the second drinks break, immediately after he and Andy McBrine had conceded just 25 in the previous eight overs.

George Dockrell was the only bowler not to take a wicket but his fielding off his own bowling brought two vital run-outs as Ireland took the last six wickets for 28 runs.

After Porterfield helped himself to 15 off the first over - 18 in all came off it - it should have been a straightforward chase but for the moment Ireland will be happy to take it one step at a time. After four successive defeats and only one win in seven, at least they are back in winning form. The comfort and style will, hopefully, come later.