Test & ODI Matches

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South Africa Ease to 1st ODI Victory

A weak bowling display by Zimbabwe helped South Africa ease to a 64-run victory over Zimbabwe in the 1st ODI in Bloemfontein last night. Batting first after winning the toss, tons from Hashim Amla (110) and ODI debutant Colin Ingram (124) helped power South Africa to 351/6 from their 50 overs. There was precious little support from the rest of the Protea lineup - David Miller's 51 was the only other knock of note - but then it wasn't needed, with Amla and Ingram having taken Zimbabwe's attack, which was clearly showing its lack of pace, to the cleaners. Shingi Masakadza was the only Zim bowler to break through the South African defences, taking 4/86, with two others being run out.

That left Zimbabwe facing a run-rate of over 7 an over before they even got out to the field. Opening pair Brendan Taylor (145*) and Hamilton Masakadza (30) did set about the task with the appropriate determination, but when Masakadza fell in the 13th over the wheels came off. Lacklustre knocks by Sean Williams (10 off 28 balls) and returning legend Grant Flower (10 off 26) left Zimbabwe becalmed mid-innings when they really couldn't afford to be, and as the required rate quickly rose to 12/over and beyond Zimbabwe settled into defensive mode, content to bat out the innings. They still managed 287/6, one of their higher ODI scores, but this was still a long way short of the target. Rusty Theron was the best of the South African bowlers, taking 3/62.

Some positives to be taken from the match, then, but the retreat to defensive mode was worrying and Ray Price is certainly being missed. Full scorecard below the cut. 2nd ODI is on Sunday in Potchefstroom.
South Africa 351/6 (50 overs; Ingram 124, S Masakadza 4/86), Zimbabwe 287/6 (50 overs; Taylor 145*, Theron 3/62). South Africa win by 64 runs.

Ireland Get Consolatory Win in 3rd ODI

The fighting Irish team showed a lot of spirit against Zimbabwe team in winning the third and final one-day international at Harare Sports Club by 20 runs. While Ireland’s batsmen recovered from a poor position, the Zimbabwe top order, with the exception of Sean Williams, had little stomach for the fight and slithered to a defeat.

The traditional luck of the Irish has not extended to the toss, as for the third time Zimbabwe won it and decided to field. They did take the opportunity, though, of giving a game to Ian Nicolson, the former Midlands pace bowler who has recently returned to the country, and Shingi Masakadza, but unfortunately neither succeeded with the ball – although they put an upright show with the bat.

Ireland made an aggressive but risky start to their innings, the openers enjoying several lucky escapes before Paul Stirling lofted one drive too many and was caught low down at extra cover for 13. Two more wickets then fell quickly, reducing Ireland to 40 for three wickets, all of them to Ed Rainsford, who was back in fine bowling form. Kevin O’Brien immediately took advantage of some rather loose bowling, racing to 20 off 14 balls and finally departing for 34. The captain Will Porterfield was still there, though, playing a steady innings and providing the backbone for the team. Zimbabwe finally got rid of him for 46 off 79 balls, run out looking for a quick single.

Ireland were now 128 for six in the 31st over, but this side does not seem to know how to collapse. Andrew White and John Mooney fought back with an admirable partnership of 66, and some big hits from Trent Johnson took the total past 200. George Dockrell stuck around as last man for 30 invaluable runs with Mooney, who was run out in the final over for 55. Ireland’s total was 244, much better than looked likely at one stage. Rainsford bowled superbly to take five wickets for 36 runs, while of the others Prosper Utseya did a fine holding job in conceding just 28 runs from his ten overs.

Zimbabwe made another weak start to their innings. Hamilton Masakadza fell to the fourth ball, bowled by Kevin O’Brien, who removed Brendan Taylor in his next over with only three runs on the board, and the batsmen seemingly too scared to hit the ball off the square. Williams alone showed any initiative, and even Tatenda Taibu was reduced to strokeless defence. Zimbabwe need urgently to rethink how they should open their innings, especially as the powerplay is in effect then. An active pursuit of quick singles would be a good place to start.

Zimbabwe did reach 30 in the tenth over – thanks to Williams, who had 26 of them. Taibu took an age to get off the mark, but then scored 22 in a partnership of 70 before a yorker from Mooney knocked his middle stump out of the ground. With Craig Ervine in, the hundred came up in the 24th over, but Williams threw his wicket away with his score on 74. Having just executed a perfect reverse sweep for four, he tried it again to the wrong ball and lobbed an easy catch to backward point. He faced 86 balls and hit nine fours, and apart from his dismissal had played an outstanding innings for his side when the opposition had been on top.

Zimbabwe were soon in trouble again, as Ervine, playing an orthodox sweep, hit a catch straight to square leg for 14. The team was now 117 for five, at the halfway stage of the innings – and Zimbabwe had quite a long tail. Yet again the burden of responsibility rested on Chigumbura. He looked good for a while, but on 22 he played weakly at a ball outside the off stump and was caught at the wicket. Three wickets went down for only four runs, and when it was too late the last pair of Shingi Masakadza (45 not out) and Nicolson (15) enabled the team to lose with some honour with a gallant stand of 60. But in the end the tourists deservedly celebrated. The left-arm spinner George Dockrell again did well with three victims, as did Kevin O’Brien.

The win sees Ireland reclaim 10th spot in the ICC's ODI rankings, one point ahead of Zimbabwe in 11th. Full scorecard below the cut.
[Match report via ZC]
Ireland 244 (49.4 overs; Mooney 55, Rainsford 5/36), Zimbabwe 224 (47.4 overs; Williams 74, K O'Brien 3/27). Ireland win by 20 runs.

Grant Flower Named in Zim Squads for SA Tour

Incoming Zim batting coach Grant Flower has made an unexpected return to international cricket after having been named in both the ODI and Twenty20 squads for Zimbabwe's tour to South Africa in October. His place comes at the expense of Brendan Taylor, who has been dropped despite being Zimbabwe's top-scorer in ODIs this year. Speaking on his selection, Flower accepted there may be a conflict of interest between his role as coach and selection as player:

"There can be a conflict of interests with my role as the batting coach if I can't turn things around as a player. It can be awkward if I don't. If it works, however, it can come out in positive fashion."

Taylor's omission seems a tad strange, though, given his good recent form - there are players in the Zim squad who are struggling for form who you would expect would be first in line for the chop. Let the speculation begin. Also notable for their absence are Ray Price and Greg Lamb. Here are the squads:

Twenty20 squad: Elton Chigumbura (captain), Hamilton Masakadza, Chamu Chibhabha, Tatenda Taibu (wicketkeeper), Shingirai Masakadza, Ian Nicolson, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Charles Coventry, Ed Rainsford, Chris Mpofu, Keith Dabengwa, Grant Flower.

ODI squad: Elton Chigumbura (captain), Hamilton Masakadza, Chamu Chibhabha, Tatenda Taibu (wicketkeeper), Shingirai Masakadza, Ian Nicolson, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Ed Rainsford, Chris Mpofu, Keith Dabengwa, Grant Flower, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine

UPDATE: Since this article was originally posted, Taylor's name has been added to both squads.

Zim Squeak Through to Series Win

Today's second ODI against Ireland in Harare was another match that was too close for comfort, although Zimbabwe did manage to squeak home with seven alls to spare. In a rerun of Sunday's match, Zimbabwe won the toss and opted to field, allowing Ireland to set the target for the match. Captain William Porterfield again fell early, on 11/1, but Paul Stirling's 52 laid the foundation for the innings. Regular wickets threatened to restrict Ireland to around the 200 mark again, but Kevin O'Brien stepped up to the plate in the final overs, smashing 30 runs in two overs to take Ireland to 239/9 at the end of their allotted overs. Prosper Utesya was back to his parsimonious self and took 2/37.

In reply, Hamilton Masakdaza's poor run of form continues as he fell with the score on 15, but Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams settled the side in, albeit at a very sedate scoring rate, before Williams was run out for 21. Tatenda Taibu and Taylor then combined to put on 80 for the 3rd wicket. A rash of mid-innings wickets threatened to leave Zimbabwe caught short, with Taylor eventually falling for 71, but the efforts of Elton Chigumbura (32*) and Graeme Cremer (22*) saw Zimbabwe home with and secured the series for Zimbabwe. Kevin O'Brien led Ireland's bowling figures, with 2/33. The win also saw Zimbabwe pass Ireland to reclaim 10th place in the ICC ODI rankings - although Ireland could potentially reverse that again with a win in the final ODI on Thursday. Full scorecard below the cut.
Ireland 238/9 (50 overs; K O'Brien 73, Utseya 2/37), Zimbabwe 239/7 (48.5 overs; Taylor 71, K O'Brien 2/33). Zimbabwe win by 3 wickets.

Zimbabwe Edge Last-Ball Thriller

A match that began so well for Zimbabwe ended in the tightest of victories over the fighting Irishmen by two wickets off the final delivery.

The match was a wonderful triumph for Ed Rainsford, on his return to the national side following his superb bowling ever since he missed out on selection to West Indies. He took four wickets for 23 runs to shatter Ireland’s top order, and then hit the final delivery of the match for six to clinch victory. The tourists had fought back well, and then steady bowling and tight fielding restricted.

Zimbabwe, winning the toss, put Ireland in to bat. There is traditionally a little life and movement in the Harare Sports Club pitch early in the morning. A Zimbabwean pace bowling attack ripped through the top order of their opponents. Chris Mpofu bowled well enough, but the danger man was Rainsford, who bowled at a good but not excessive pace, with accuracy and getting whatever help he could from the pitch.

He began with the fourth ball of his first over, which Will Porterfield drove straight back to him. Niall O’Brien was caught in the slips off the next ball, while Kevin O’Brien groped at the hat-trick ball, just outside the off stump, but missed. Rainsford would have picked up Paul Stirling in his next over, but Chris Mpofu, perhaps dazzled by sun in his eyes, missed the chance and the ball bounced off his hand for six. He later had Stirling caught at the wicket, heaving across the line, for 17, after Mpofu had removed O’Brien, who skied a catch into the covers.

At 22 for four, Ireland were facing disaster. But Gary Wilson now joined Andrew White, and the two of them saw off the opening bowlers and then began to build a recovery off their replacements. They did a marvellous job for their team: there were few big shots but they kept the board ticking over all the time and put on 115 together before White, on the verge of his fifty, got a leading edge into the covers off Graeme Cremer. Wilson was eventually caught at long-off off the same bowler for 69; he faced 108 balls and hit seven fours, half his team’s total of boundaries. With the team dismissed for 200, this heroic partnership had realized almost 70 per cent of the total.

Hamilton Masakadza nudged the first ball of the innings from Kevin O’Brien into the hands of first slip. Brendan Taylor and Tatenda Taibu played for a few overs like grim death, suddenly aware it seemed that they could lose. Finally Taylor broke the shackles and played some handsome strokes, finding the gaps in the field, scoring 27 before driving a catch to mid-off. Vusi Sibanda followed him, lbw next ball, the bowler being the left-arm spinner George Dobrell, who played a vital part for his side with three for 27 in his ten overs.

This was to be the story of the innings: Taibu and Craig Ervine (23) improved matters, Taibu being a specialist in scoring runs when others fail. But when he had made a fine 62 off 106 balls he hammered a catch straight to backward point and Zimbabwe were 125 for five.

The loss of wickets affected the over rate, and after 40 overs Zimbabwe were only 140 for five. The match was really in the balance now. Elton Chigumbura and Charles Coventry started another recovery, only for Gary Wilson to step in with a brilliant run-out to remove Coventry. Utseya fell; 31 runs needed in the last four overs, and it almost all depended now on the captain. With two overs to go, Chigumbura hit a huge six over long-on, leaving 14 needed off the last two overs. He was caught at long-on for 41 off 32 balls, leaving the last three batsmen to score seven off seven balls to win the match. Rainsford scored a vital two off the penultimate ball to level the scores before he faced the final ball from Johnson – a full toss that he picked up superbly and swung high over the long-leg boundary for six.

Rainsford rightfully earned the man of the match award helping Zimbabwe to lead 1-0 in the Coca Cola Challenge and Ireland are looking to get back into the series with a victory on Tuesday 28 September. Full scorecard below the cut.
[Match report courtesy ZC]
Ireland 200 (47.3 overs; Wilson 69, Rainsford 4/23), Zimbabwe 206/8 (50 overs; Taibu 62, Dockrell 3/27). Zimbabwe win by 2 wickets

ZC Name Squad for Ireland ODIs

ZC have named a 15-man squad for the three ODIs against Ireland. Here's the list:
Elton Chigumbura (capt), Graeme Cremer, Chamu Chibhabha, Charles Coventry, Craig Ervine, Greg Lamb, Hamilton Masakadza, Shingi Masakadza, Chris Mpofu, Ray Price, Ed Rainsford, Vusi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya

Ireland Announce Squad for Zim Tour

Ireland have confirmed a 14-man squad for their upcoming trip to Zimbabwe, which includes an Intercontinental Cup fixture against Zimbabwe XI and three ODIs against the senior side. With Ireland currently ahead of Zimbabwe in the ICC ODI rankings, Ireland are keen to underscore their superiority against Zim, and coach Phil Simmons is hopeful of a good series:

"It's an important trip for a variety of reasons. We're currently ranked 10th in the world above Zimbabwe, and we want to not only keep our position but close in on, and possibly overhaul Bangladesh. We haven't given up hope of still qualifying for the final of the Intercontinental Cup. A full points win would keep us in with a chance, so we'll be striving all out to achieve that."

It's also a chance for the Irish players to prove form ahead of the next cricket World Cup. The full squad is: William Porterfield (captain), Andre Botha, George Dockrell, Allan Eastwood (Pembroke), Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, John Mooney, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien (wkt), Andrew Poynter, Paul Stirling, Albert Van De Merwe, Andrew White, Gary Wilson (wkt).
CricInfo - Porterfield back to lead Ireland in Zimbabwe

Itinerary Released for Zim Tour to South Africa

Zimbabwe will visit South Africa in October for three ODIs and two Twenty20 matches. Here's the schedule:

8 October 2010          1st T20 International           OUTsurance Oval, Bloemfontein 
10 October 2010         2nd T20 International           De Beers Diamond Oval, Kimberley 
15 October 2010         1st ODI                         OUTsurance Oval, Bloemfontein 
17 October 2010         2nd ODI                         Senwes Park, Potchefstroom 
22 October 2010         3rd ODI                         Willowmoore Park, Benoni

Sri Lanka Thrash Zimbabwe to Claim Tri-Series Trophy

So far this series, there's been one simple rule: bat second, win the match. With Sri Lanka winning the toss and opting to field this morning, the pressure was immediately on Zimbabwe to be the exception to that rule - but setting a target has never been something that this side has looked overly comfortable with, and so it proved this morning. The innings got off to a bad start with the early departures of dynamic duo Hamilton Masakadza (4) and Brendan Taylor (19), while Craig Ervine (9) was run out before really getting a chance to settle. The fourth-wicket pairing of Tatenda Taibu (71) and Greg Lamb (37) finally managed to build a reasonable partnership, adding 90 before Taibu departed, but if there was any hope that the big hitters of the middle order, Chigumbura and Coventry, would arrive like the cavalry to save Zimbabwe's innings, it was misplaced as they too failed to make much of an impact. It didn't help that Zimbabwe waited until after their recognised batsmen had departed to call the batting powerplay, surely a tactical error on Chigumbura's part. The wickets continued to fall cheaply through the lower order, too, as Sri Lanka turned the tables and did to Zimbabwe what Zim had done to them two days earlier and bowled them out for a decidedly sub-par 199. Dilhara Fernando led the Sri Lankan bowling figures with 3/36, while Ajantha Mendis and Jeevan Mendis chipped in with a pair apiece.

While Zimbabwe's innings was slow and laboured, though, Sri Lanka had no such problem - it had been expected before the match that the pitch would become more batsman-friendly as the day went on, and the opening pair of Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan proved that prediction true. They looked set to see out the innings on their own and were racing along at over six an over for most of their innings before an unfortunate mixup in the 26th over led to the run-out of Tharanga for 72. That brought Dinesh Chamdinal to the crease with the score on 160/1, 40 short of the target, and he and Dilshan made short work of knocking those runs off, reaching the target in the 35th over & with Dilshan claiming his ton in the previous over. Zimbabwe's bowlers ended the match without a wicket between them - Greg Lamb was the most economical, conceding 24 runs from his six overs, but nothing really there to write home about.

No fairytale ending to the series for Zimbabwe, then, but we can still hold our heads high after some sparkling performances in the group stage. Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe 199 (49 overs; Taibu 71, Fernando 3/36), Sri Lanka 203/1 (34.4 overs; Dilshan 108*, Lamb 0/24). Sri Lanka win by 8 wickets.

Zimbabwe Finish Top After Win Over Sri Lanka

Before today, it had been seven years since Zimbabwe last beat Sri Lanka, but Zim finally broke that losing streak with another convincing win at Harare Sports Club on Monday. It's perhaps the biggest indicator of how well Zimbabwe have performed in this series that, ahead of the match, many were seeing Zimbabwe as favourites - a status that wasn't harmed by Zimbabwe winning the toss and opting to field. So far in this series, the winner has always been the team batting second, and that record continued.

It initially didn't look that way, though, as Sri Lanka got off to their best start of the series as openers Upul Tharanga (69) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (78) fired Sri Lanka to 122 before the first wicket fell. Their blazing start was partly down to Zimbabwe experimenting with a seam attack that wasn't really firing too well - Chamu Chibhabha (0/40) and Elton Chigumbura (0/32) both took four overs each and got hammered for their trouble - but with the first wicket down, the spinners arrived on the scene and the process of strangling the opposition began, and with it frustration set in amongst the Sri Lankans that proved to be their undoing. From 122/1, the rest of the visitors' batting lineup managed to add only another 114 between them as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 236 with 13 balls to spare. Chris Mpofu (2/32), Graeme Cremer (2/33) and Prosper Utseya (2/41) took two apiece, while some top-class 'keeping by Tatenda Taibu contributed a further two wickets, and from a strong position Sri Lanka were suddenly looking to be the team in trouble.

Come their chance to reply, Zimbabwe remained the dependable batting side that they've been in all their 50-over matches this season. Hamilton Masakadza, who just a few days ago celebrate his marriage, had a rare off day, managing just 3 before holing out. But Brendan Taylor (119*) and Chamu Chibhabha (58) set the tone for Zimbabwe's chase with a steady, unhurried partnership of 134 for the second wicket before Chibhabha was trapped leg-before. That brought Tatenda Taibu (42*) to the crease, who together with Taylor completed the chase with the minimum of fuss. That left Zimbabwe sitting pretty at the top of the tournament table with three wins from four matches, a position that just a few weeks ago most Zim fans would have discounted as impossible. The two sides now meet again in the series final on Wednesday - Zimbabwe have never before won a tri-series that featured only Full Member sides, but with the way they've been performing so far, who would rule out the possibility that Zim's time is about to come? Full scorecard below the cut.
Sri Lanka 236 (47.5 overs; Dilshan 78, Mpofu 2/32), Zimbabwe 240/2 (47.5 overs; Taylor 119*, Dilshan 1/35). Zimbabwe win by 8 wickets.

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