Friday 23 February 2018

Cricket: Zimbabwe rally to thwart Johnston

TRENT JOHNSTON prised out three wickets in Harare yesterday to keep alive Ireland's fading hopes of retaining the Intercontinental Cup, but Zimbabwe closed strongly to end the day on 175-3 in reply to the visitors' 465 all out.

The Africans need only to draw the four-day match to eliminate the three-time champions and if they can save the follow-on by reaching 316 today that should be enough to deny Ireland victory.

Johnston bowled his heart out on a pitch that would have broken many others and, after claiming an early lbw, he returned after tea to strike two crucial blows in as many overs.

The old warhorse found an edge to Gary Wilson at slip to end a stubborn second-wicket partnership of exactly 100, then produced a short ball that Zimbabwe captain Vusi Sibanda edged to 'keeper Niall O'Brien.

Ireland's other bowlers struggled to make an impact, though, and with the experienced Sean Williams unbeaten on 88 at stumps, there were no other moments to celebrate for the visitors.

Spinner George Dockrell found little help in the pitch and, with Andre Botha unlikely to bowl after requiring three stitches on a hand injury, taking a further 17 wickets to win outright looks an improbability.

The second day began well, with Andrew White completing his fourth IC Cup century -- and fifth overall for Ireland -- before John Mooney and Dockrell added 75 for the ninth wicket.

Mooney fell shortly after lunch for 87 -- like Wilson he is really finding his feet at this level -- and Dockrell had recorded his highest Irish score of 30 not out when Allan Eastwood was last man out.

Irish Independent

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