Murtagh keeps his nerve to help Ireland secure win over Zimbabwe
Tim Murtagh produced a magical 5-21 in Belfast yesterday, including a nerveless penultimate over that enabled Ireland to snatch a five-run victory against Zimbabwe and take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-three one-day international series.
A month shy of his 38th birthday, Murtagh claimed three wickets with his new-ball spell at Stormont, returned to remove top scorer Sean Williams and, with the tension mounting, conceded just one run from an edge-of-the-seat 49th over.
A likely 15 to win from 12 balls was suddenly 14 from the last over. Mark Adair completed the job with the help of a sharp run-out from the boundary by Shane Getkate that left Zimbabwe's last man needing a six to equal Ireland's 242-9.
A repeat of the famous match between the sides at the 2007 World Cup was not to be. In truth, Ireland should never have let Zimbabwe get so close after a dominant opening stand of 111 in 24 overs between Paul Stirling and James McCollum had laid the base for a much bigger total.
Stirling passed 4,000 ODI runs as he recorded his sixth consecutive half-century (only Javed Miandad, with nine, has more to his name), McCollum top-scored with 73 and 22-year-old wicketkeeper Lorcan Tucker sparkled with 56 from 51 balls as the innings lost its way around him.
A first international half-century by the youngest of the Boys in Green was then trumped by a career-best from the oldest.