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Zimbabwe under a cloud for delayed return

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'The chairman and managing director were ousted by the state sports commission' Photo: Stock Image

'The chairman and managing director were ousted by the state sports commission' Photo: Stock Image

Getty Images/iStockphoto

'The chairman and managing director were ousted by the state sports commission' Photo: Stock Image

It hasn't been a good week for Zimbabwe Cricket. They lost three times to the Netherlands while, off the field, their governing body continued to make the FAI look like a model of good governance.

The chairman and managing director were ousted by the state sports commission in the middle of an ICC forensic audit. The state body demanded its own audit and sent police to ensure nothing went missing. A previous ZC regime spent ICC funding on a fleet of 200 Mercedes, which promptly "disappeared".

Throw in the current currency crisis, and inflation raging at 97 per cent, and Friday night's shameful cancellation of the women's tour of Ireland due to "funding issues", and you can see why its men might not be in the right frame of mind to take on Ireland in six games over the next fortnight.

It's been 16 years since they played here, a long wait when every other major side has visited since 2015. Ireland have played them twice at World Cups, the famous tie in Ireland's debut in 2007, and an Ed Joyce-inspired five-run win four years ago.

Seven of that last Zimbabwe side are here this week including two who once pursued an Ireland career, Peter Moor and Craig Ervine. The visitors have more survivors than their hosts whose rebuilding project has a new urgency about it.

One beneficiary is Mark Adair, set to play his first T20I after a memorable ODI debut against England. His sparkling innings of 32, including two huge sixes, was warmly received by the crowd.

"I was given a lot of freedom by the coach and captain, who told me to go out and express myself and try to be positive. The guys told me that I'd only make my debut once, and to make sure to enjoy it and remember it. To be honest, though, it all passed me by very quickly."

Adair's career path hasn't been smooth, with six summers at Warwickshire frequently interrupted by injury which also took him out of the Ireland picture. "Being injured for so long gave me time to work on other aspects of my game," he recalls. "I certainly wouldn't be as good a batter as I am now if I didn't spend those winters working on it."

He's a confident lad, but wasn't always like that. "At one stage I felt I was in no man's land - I had just been released by Warwickshire and didn't have a contract with Cricket Ireland. But opportunities always come up.

"In April I was nowhere and in May I was playing against England. Things do come around quickly and as long as you're prepared for them you'll be fine."

Adair has settled into a rapidly-changing squad with his best mates James 'Prince' McCollum and Josh Little, forming a trio that if cricket attracted the attention of the tabloids would be labelled the Spice Boys. He's from Holywood, too.

The ODIs kick off tomorrow at Bready before moving on to Stormont on Thursday and Sunday, with three T20s the following week. All games will be screened live on cricketireland.ie.

Ireland (ODI): W Porterfield (captain), M Adair, A Balbirnie, S Getkate, T Kane, A McBrine, J McCollum, T Murtagh, K O'Brien, B Rankin, S Singh, P Stirling, L Tucker, G Wilson.

Ireland (T20I): Wilson (captain), Adair, Balbirnie, G Delany, G Dockrell, Getkate, Kane, J Little, O'Brien, Rankin, Stirling, G Thompson, Tucker, C Young.

Zimbabwe: H Masakadza (captain), B Taylor, PJ Moor, S Mire, S Williams, S Raza, D Tiripano, K Jarvis, T Chatara, C Mpofu, C Ervine, A Ndlovu, E Chigumbura, R Mutumbami, T Kamunhukamwe, R Burl.

Sunday Indo Sport