Cricket: Botha leads Ireland to victory
Andre Botha's half-century ensured a four-wicket win for Ireland against Zimbabwe in their World Cup warm-up game at Nagpur.
Batting first, Zimbabwe clawed their way back from a top-order collapse to finish at 244 for eight with captain Elton Chigumbura's fighting 103 not out off 81 balls leading the way.
Ireland's chase was highlighted by key innings from Botha (79), Alex Cusack (47), and Kevin O'Brien (62 not out) but Zimbabwe bowled well to ensure the match went down to the final over as victory for the Irish came with three balls to spare.
Earlier in the day, Ireland enjoyed a profitable start, dispatching three Zimbabwe batsmen inside eight overs - with just 12 runs on the board - as Brendan Taylor, Charles Coventry and Sean Williams were all caught behind by keeper Gary Wilson.
Trent Johnston and Boyd Rankin did the damage between them before Zimbabwe wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu steadied the ship with his 119-ball 45.
Taibu and Craig Ervine built a useful 62-run stand for the fourth wicket but that was ended with Ervine run out for 27.
Zimbabwe lumbered their way to 100 in 31 overs but Taibu lost his cool and an attempted slog was caught by Andrew White, off Albert Van der Merwe.
A 52-run partnership between Chigumbura and Prosper Utseya came to the rescue with the latter contributing 26 before falling to Botha, while Chigumbura hit eight boundaries and three sixes during his quickfire innings at the death.
In reply, Niall O'Brien and Cusack helped the Irish recover from the first over loss of Paul Stirling (nought) to reach 40, before the former departed for 15 off Ray Price.
Cusack hit five boundaries and was looking good for his 47 off 67 balls but was caught out by Chigumbura off Graeme Cremer in the 22nd over.
Botha played a patient innings despite the fall of Andrew White (19) and crossed his fifty in 77 balls. O'Brien got to his half-century at nearly run-a-ball, as he supported the 99-run stand well, hitting six boundaries and two sixes to finish the match unbeaten on 62.
Botha's wicket in the 47th over followed by Wilson's (seven) was too little too late for Zimbabwe, as Ireland were able to chase down the remaining runs to ensure a positive build up the World Cup that starts this Saturday.