Ireland took a big step towards securing a place in the main draw of the ICC World Twenty20 while Zimbabwe kept their hopes alive by winning their respective matches at the Sylhet Cricket Stadium yesterday. If another last ball-drama was the order for Zimbabwe in the first game against the Netherlands, then the power-cut and rain interruption had the final say in the second game which Ireland eventually won against UAE by 21 runs in Duckworth-Lewis method.
It was another last-ball finish for Zimbabwe but this time they prevailed against the spirited Netherlands to stay in contention in the tournament. Needing one off the last ball, Vusi Sibanda inflicted maximum damage as he smashed an over-pitched ball from Ahsan Malik over long on to ensure the five-wicket victory that induced celebrations in the Zimbabwean tent.
Smarting from a last-ball three-wicket defeat to Ireland in their opening Group B match, Zimbabwe made heavy weather of a chase of 141 on a good batting track after the 62-run second-wicket stand between Hamilton Masakadza and captain Brendan Taylor put them in a position to sail to a comfortable win.
But a stunning catch from Netherlands skipper Peter Borren in the first ball of the 19th over revived his team's hopes as it sent his Zimbabwean counterparts back to the dressing room. Timm van der Gugten got the big wicket but it was Borren who brilliantly leaped and pulled the ball down one-handed to deny Taylor a boundary over cover and further stay at the crease.
But Taylor's 39-ball 49, which contained two fours and a six, eventually did not go in vain and left-handed Sean Williams deserved some praise as he kept his nerve during his 29-ball 26. Williams could not however finish the job as he fell victim of an unnecessary run-out in the fifth ball of the last over, leaving it to Sibanda to perform the last heroics. Before that, Williams however managed six runs with a boundary leaving seven to be scored from the last six balls.
Zimbabwe's turnaround after a shocking defeat against Ireland however outshone the brilliant batting of Tom Cooper, who hit an unbeaten 72 -- so far the highest individual score in the tournament -- to help his side put up a decent total after recovering from an early hiccup.
Spinner Prosper Utseya's double strike reduced the Netherlands to 35 for four in 4.3 overs but the Cooper brothers held the innings together. Tom and Ben Cooper shared 52 for the fifth wicket. The younger Ben made 20 off 24 balls. Tom clobbered nine fours and a six during his 58-ball innings.
In the second match, a 80-run second wicket stand between William Porterfield and Edmund Joyce in reply to UAE's 123 put Ireland on top but UAE brought some life in the one-sided affair by taking two quick wickets before power failure stopped the game. When the match resumed after ten minutes it saw only two deliveries bowled before rain forced the call-off of the match and at the stage Ireland needed 83 in 14.2 overs to win in D/L method, but had already scored 103 for three.