Half-centuries by opening batter Innocent Kaia and former England batsman Gary Balance provided little solace for Zimbabwe as they lost by 46 runs in the second One Day International (ODI) against Ireland at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
After Zimbabwe’s stand-in captain Sikandar Raza won the toss and elected to field, Ireland posted 294-7 from their 50 overs with Stephen Doheny hitting 84 while Harry Tector added 75.
In reply, Zimbabwe reached 207-4 around the halfway mark of their innings before the wickets tumbled and fell well short of the target on 248 all out in 47,3 overs.
Fast-medium bowler Josh Little took career-best one-day international figures of 4-38 to ensure the the series remains evenly poised at one game apiece ahead of the series decider at the same venue on Monday.
Zimbabwe were also without their captain Craig Ervine, who missed out due to an injury while former captain Chamu Chibhabha, young gun Tadiwanashe Marumani and veteran seamer Tendai Chatara were the other new faces in the side.
Ireland went into the second ODI without captain Andrew Balbirnie, who was ruled out for the remainder of the series after retiring in Wednesday’s game with concussion.
Zimbabwe’s bowlers did not back the decision to bowl first as they struggled to hit their line and length with the seamer either bowling to short or to straight to the Irish openers.
Doheny was hardly troubled on his way to his maiden international half-century as he combined with Paul Stirling (45) for a formidable 104-run partnership for the opening wicket.
It was also a memorable day for Tector as he followed up a century three days ago with a quickfire 75 off 61 deliveries, including one six and seven fours.
Chatara was Zimbabwe’s most effective bowler after claiming three wickets for 51 runs from his 10 overs while leg spinner Ryan Burl chipped in with two wickets for 66 runs.
In reply Zimbabwe got off to a terrible start after Marumani was dismissed by Little with just one run on the board before Innocent Kaia (51) and Chamu Chibhabha (40), who was playing in his first international match in over two years, took the hosts to 90 for one.
The duo of Ballance (52) and Burl (41) gave the near capacity crowd some hope as they guided the home side to a strong position before the Ireland attack took control to secure victory with 15 balls to spare.
The sides will meet again in the decider at Harare Sports Ground on Monday.