The Sunday Mail
THE opening duo of Gary Ballance and Innocent Kaia yesterday scored their first half-centuries in national colours, but it was all in vain, as Ireland strolled to a 46-run victory over the Chevrons to level the three-match One-Day International at Harare Sports Club.
Ballance, the former British batter, had a superb outing in his second ODI for Zimbabwe.
His 52 runs off 67 balls almost saw Zimbabwe chase down what turned out to be an unassailable 295 target.
Zimbabwe won the toss and put Ireland to bat, a decision they would later regret as their bowlers struggled for wickets.
The visitors got off to a good start on their way to 294 runs for seven from their allotted 50 overs.
Ireland had a good opening partnership, as Paul Sterling and Stephen Doheny made 101 runs inside 21 overs before seamer Brad Evans had Sterling caught by Ballance for his 45 runs.
The visitors lost their second wicket of the afternoon six overs later when Murray Commins, who came in as a replacement for the Ireland skipper Andrew Balbirnie, was caught out by Ballance again off a Brad Evans delivery in the 27th over.
Doheny, who top-scored for Ireland with 84 runs, was next to return to the pavilion when he was caught by Ballance off a Ryan Burl delivery in the 36th over.
Ballance finished the innings with four catches.
A half-century by an in-form Harry Tector saw Ireland adding more runs on the scoreboard, before he was dismissed for 75 in the 47th over.
However, the lanky all-rounder had already set the base for what turned out to be a solid total (294) for the visitors.
Tendai Chatara, who replaced Wellington Masakadza, was the pick of the Zimbabwe bowlers with three wickets for 51 runs from his allotted 10 overs.
Evans claimed two wickets and the duo of Richard Ngarava and Burl had one each.
With a target of 295 runs, Zimbabwe had an awkward start to their innings, as they lost their first wicket off the second ball of the innings.
Tadiwa Marumani, who came in as a replacement for Wesley Madhevere, was trapped leg-before-wicket by a Josh Little delivery.
Chamu Chibhabha, marking his return since 2020, tried to salvage the innings together with the duo of Innocent Kaia (51) and Burl (41).
The former Chevrons captain scored 40 runs off 55 balls on his return.
Unfortunately, their efforts were in vain as Zimbabwe fell short of their chase by 46 runs.
After the match, Kaia blamed the Chevrons’ defeat on a below-par bowling performance.
“It is really disappointing the way we bowled; we had too many extras and they ended up costing us the match,” said Kaia.
“However, Dave (Houghton) is always positive.
“After the match, he told us that it is just a game of cricket and we don’t have to think too much about the result.
“We just have to come on Monday (tomorrow) and turn things around to win the series.”
The two sides meet for the third and final match of the series tomorrow at Harare Sports Club.