Zimbabwe edge out Ireland in tense finale
Ireland Women's bowling attack fell just short of pulling off a remarkable comeback victory, with Zimbabwe Women winning the first T20 of the five-match series with just four balls to spare.
Set a target of 102 off 20 overs, the Zimbabweans were cruising to victory, at one point needing just 15 runs off 36 balls with eight wickets in hand.
A combination of tight bowling by Rachel Delaney (0-13, 3.2 overs) and Isobel Joyce (1-6, 4 overs) particularly, pulled Zimbabwe back to make the game a tighter finish than it seemed possible.
Good support from debutant Cara Murray (2-19, 3 overs) and a first international wicket for debutant Vanessa Kelada (1-27, 3 overs) helped the cause, but it wasn't until Joyce claimed the vital wicket of the experienced left-hander Precious Marange (14 off 23 balls) in the 18th over that Ireland's self-belief rose.
Earlier in the day, Captain Mary Waldron played a breezy innings, striking two boundaries in the second over of the day, as part of a 30-run opening stand with Una Raymond-Hoey (13 off 18 balls) off the first five overs.
Waldron, who plays domestically for Malahide CC, ended her innings with 34 off just 33 balls - one run short of her highest score in this form of the game, maintaining a commendable average of 26 on the current tour to date.
Isobel Joyce again displayed her all-round abilities scoring 17 runs from 16 balls before being run out, and playing an instrumental role in pulling Ireland Women back into the contest late on - notably bowling a wicket maiden in the 18th over.
For the Zimbabweans, another stand-out bowling performance by Marange (2-9, 4 overs) helped restrict the Ireland total. Marange, who also plays rugby union in her spare time, across the two one-day matches and one T20 has sent down 24 overs taking five wickets and conceding just 41 runs in the process.