Monday 26 August 2019

Balbirnie century puts Irish in driving seat against Zimbabwe

Andy Balbirnie hits a six against Zimbabwe at Bready CC yesterday. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Andy Balbirnie hits a six against Zimbabwe at Bready CC yesterday. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Andy Balbirnie glided to his third century in 10 one day internationals as Ireland chased down 255 to record a four-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in Tyrone yesterday and take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Balbirnie, who survived a caught behind chance early on, reached his century from 109 balls, with nine fours and two maximums, before he ran himself out. That left Mark Adair and debutant Shane Getkate to take Ireland over the line with nine balls to spare.

After James McCollum was caught behind for 21, the Ireland innings was built upon two key partnerships at the windswept Bready Ground, the first a stand of 105 between Balbirnie and Paul Stirling, who scored his fifth successive half-century in ODIs.

Stirling's dismissal, for a controlled 57 from 78 balls, led to a mini-collapse as William Porterfield and Kevin O'Brien quickly followed, but wicketkeeper Lorcan Tucker repaid the selectors' faith in picking him ahead of Gary Wilson with a crucial 23, as he added 64 with Balbirnie.

"To score a hundred in a chase when you win is very enjoyable, but I'm disappointed not to finish it off," Balbirnie said. "Still, it was good to get the series off with a win and let's hope we can continue that form in Belfast."

Adair was the star turn with the ball, removing middle stump with his first delivery after Zimbabwe had been asked to bat, and followed up with three further wickets to return his best figures of 4-73 as the visitors were restricted to 254-9 from their 50 overs.

Ireland look to have found a really good one in the strapping all-rounder from Down. Adair bowls at a lively pace, hits the ball very hard - as Zimbabwe discovered when he smashed 21 from 13 balls at the death - and, most importantly, he looks fearless.

Getkate, too, has the potential to tie down an all-rounder's role. He claimed his first two ODI wickets and struck the winning runs 12 years after appearing as a 15-year-old in the U-19 World Cup, and eight years after suffering a heart attack while playing a Second XI game for Warwickshire.

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