Opener Paul Stirling smashed 60 off 34 balls yesterday to set Ireland up for a last-ball victory over Zimbabwe in their first-round World Twenty20 championship match.
Stirling’s fifth Twenty20 half-century included nine fours and a six, and helped Ireland to a three-wicket victory on St Patrick’s Day at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium in Bangladesh.
Ireland needed four runs off the last over, but lost Ed Joyce (22) and Max Sorensen — run out without scoring — before winning through a bye off the last ball of the over, which was bowled by paceman Tinashe Panyangara, who finished with 4-37.
Stirling and skipper William Porterfield, who scored a 23-ball 31 with three fours and a six, gave Ireland a fiery 80-run start in 8.2 overs as their run chase began confidently.
A ruthless Stirling hit paceman Panyangara for four boundaries in one over before he fell with the total on 100.
Ireland then lost three quick wickets to Panyangara, including that of hard-hitting Kevin O’Brien (17), before sealing their last-gasp victory.
Zimbabwe owed their earlier total to a solid 46-ball 59 by Brendan Taylor. The Zimbabwe skipper hit six boundaries and two towering sixes, while Elton Chigumbura made 22 and Hamilton Masakadza scored 21.
However, spinners George Dockrell (2-18) and debutant Andy McBrine (2-26) restricted Zimbabwe to 163-5 in their 20 overs.
The Group B defeat put Zimbabwe in a tight corner, since only one team will go on from each of the two groups into the Super-10 stage.
On the opening day of the tournament on Sunday, hosts Bangladesh beat Afghanistan, while debutants Nepal downed fellow first-timers Hong Kong in their respective Group A matches.
The two group-stage winners will join the top eight seeds in the Super-10 stage that starts on Friday.