Kavanagh heroics in vain as Ireland beaten by Zimbabwe
Late innings batting heroics by experienced Ireland all-rounder Shauna Kavanagh wasn't enough to stave off defeat to Zimbabwe in the first of three 50-over matches being played in Harare, as part of the Ireland Women's team 2018 Tour of Zimbabwe.
Coming to the wicket with the Ireland team precariously poised at 30-3, the Pembroke top-order batter Kavanagh first steadied the ship with Captain Mary Waldron (22), then went on to remain unbeaten on 79 from 118 balls (5 fours, 5 sixes).
Kavanagh's innings also saw her feature in an unbroken 8th wicket partnership of 74 in just 68 balls with debutant Cara Murray (14*) - this vital partnership rescued Ireland from 99-7 to finiah on a respectable 173-7.
Kavanagh's innings also finished with a big flourish, delighting spectators and team-mates by despatching Zimbabwe's opening bowler Nomvelo Sibanda over the boundary three times in the last four balls of the innings.
This was Kavanagh's best score for Ireland, and was the third time in four innings against Zimbabwe that she has passed 50.
Kavanagh reflected after the game the bittersweet feeling of personal achievement as part of a team loss: "I was struggling early on but I just knew I had to graft it out - the team was 30-3 at one stage," she said.
"But the rain break did a world of good and after a little bit of reflection I came out with a better mindset."
At the start of the day the Ireland selectors had announced a squad with a mix of experience and youth that featured three debutants - the Leinster duo of Anna Kerrison and Vanessa Kelada, along with NCU teenager Cara Murray.
The match was also the first international for the squad since summer, so despite some expected rustiness, the team took away a number of positives and posted a competitive total, which bodes well for the next two matches in the series.
The host's innings was interrupted by heavy showers later in the day, and an adjusted run chase was established, with Zimbabwe set a total of 140 from a maximum of 33 overs.
The Zimbabweans reached the target in 26 overs, bolstered by a solid 93-run stand between the 21-year old opener Modester Mupachikwa (40) and Captain Chipo Mugeri (64*).