Ireland won by 46 runs despite former England batter Gary Ballance’s half-century for Zimbabwe and levelled the one-day international series on Saturday.
Ireland made 294-7 first after opener Stephen Doheny top-scored with 84 runs, and fast bowler Joshua Little took four wickets to be man of the match as Zimbabwe was bowled out for 248 at Harare Sports Club.
Little denied Zimbabwe’s batsmen freedom with length and pace variations. His 4-38 was a career-best in ODIs.
“Josh was absolutely amazing,” Doheny said. “It’s not surprising that he gets picked for these franchise leagues across the world. He’s a top, top bowler.”
Ballance played patiently for Zimbabwe and was in good nick in scoring 52 off 67 deliveries. He was out attempting an off drive from a lengthy Little delivery and taken at long-off by Graham Hume.
Opener Innocent Kaia scored 51, Ryan Burl 41 and Chamu Chibhabha 40, but the asking rate climbed to 10 an over and Zimbabwe collapsed to be all out with 15 balls left.
“We will come back a much improved side,” Kaia promised.
“We are a Test nation, we have to find ways out of situations like this.”
Zimbabwe’s batting lineup was weakened by the absence of injured captain Craig Ervine. Another senior batter, Sean Williams, was out of the series with an injury that might also sideline him from the two home Tests against the West Indies in February.
Put into bat, Ireland’s Doheny and Harry Tector (75) shared a third-wicket partnership of 57 runs off 56 balls, and were punishing of deliveries slightly wide of the stumps.
“Our top order is really good, and we knew if we bat throughout the innings, we were going to come out strong,” Doheny said.
He was out to a brilliant Ballance catch at mid-off from legspinner Burl’s bowling. It was one of four catches by Ballance in a stunning fielding effort.
The third and last ODI is on Monday.