Gritty Ireland pip Zimbabwe in warm-up
Andre Botha and Kevin O’Brien hit resolute half-centuries to carry Ireland to a final over, four-wicket victory in a World Cup warm-up game against Zimbabwe on Tuesday.
Botha top-scored with 79 and O’Brien hit an unbeaten 62 as Ireland chased Zimbabwe’s competitive 244-8 with three balls to spare in the thrilling match at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium in Nagpur.
The duo upstaged Zimbabwe skipper Elton Chigumbura, who slammed eight fours and three sixes in an unbeaten 103 off just 81 balls to lift his side from a shaky 74-4 after they had won the toss and elected to bat.
Former captain Tatenda Taibu chipped in with a valuable 45 up the order after the early dismissals of openers Brendan Taylor and Charles Coventry.
Ireland seamers Trent Johnston and Botha picked up two wickets each in what was their last practice match ahead of the tournament beginning in Dhaka on Saturday.
Ireland also lost their openers cheaply but Alex Cusack (47) dug in to lend stability to the middle-order. The right-hander missed out on a half-century when he was caught by Chigumbura off leg-spinner Graeme Cremer.
Botha’s fine innings was brought to an end by medium-pacer Shingirai Masakadza (2-39) who had him caught by Cremer in the 47th over.
Ireland’s victory was creditable as they rested key batsmen Ed Joyce and William Porterfield to give the other members of their squad a look-in ahead of their tournament opener against Bangladesh on February 25.
They had lost to New Zealand in their first warm-up despite a spirited chase in a high-scoring match, also in Nagpur.
For Zimbabwe, it was their second defeat on the trot after losing to South Africa in their first match.
Zimbabwe and Ireland have been placed in different groups for the mega-event.
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