Cricket: O'Brien heroics not enough as Irish fall short
IRELAND pushed Zimbabwe all the way again in Harare yesterday, but narrowly lost another see-saw one-day international by three wickets to go 2-0 down in the three-match series.
After a controversial last-ball victory on Sunday, this time the hosts had seven deliveries to spare when their eighth-wicket pair scrambled the winning run off Trent Johnston.
When the seventh Zimbabwe wicket had fallen with 47 runs needed from 46 balls, Ireland were favourites and it needed a cool cameo of 32 not out from skipper Elton Chigumbura to turn the game.
Put into bat, Ireland hit 238-9 from their 50 overs thanks to a half century from opener Paul Stirling and an explosive 73 not out from Kevin O'Brien.
Both men hit three sixes, but whereas Stirling rattled along from the outset to make 52 from 49 balls, O'Brien had to steady a mid-innings slump before teeing off in the powerplay and smashing 38 from the last 16 balls he faced.
The visitors to the Harare Sports Club had looked well set at 91-2 in the 18th over, but the dismissal of out-of-touch Andre Botha sparked an alarming collapse in which four wickets fell for just 16 runs.
John Mooney briefly helped O'Brien repair the damage, but it needed a solid 30 from Johnston in a Railway Union-inspired eighth-wicket partnership of 55 to lay the platform for a late onslaught.
When the younger O'Brien lets fly it can be an awesome sight and his powerful driving brought all three of his sixes and 24 runs from the final over bowled by Sunday's hero Ed Rainsford.
Once Ireland started bowling, O'Brien struck early with the ball and teenager George Dockrell pulled off an impressive run out, but the home side accelerated from a slow start and should have won with more to spare.
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