Ireland clinched a last-ball thriller to upset Zimbabwe in the ICC World Twenty20 in an exciting Group B match at the Sylhet Cricket Stadium yesterday.
Irish skipper William Porterfield aimed at making a big statement as an emerging associate member nation and they did exactly that in their opening group match but not before a last over drama, staged mainly by Zimbabwean paceman Tinashe Panyangara.
And they must thank Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor, whose 59-run knock ultimately went in vain for his own mistake, as Ireland left the field with a three-wicket victory in front of a jubilant local crowd, who made the occasion of hosting the first international match in their city at the picturesque ground memorable.
After an 80-run opening partnership between Porterfield and Paul Stirling in chase of a challenging target of 164, it was apparently destined to be an easy win as Ireland needed only four runs from the last six balls with five wickets in hand but 21-year old paceman Panyangara provided a twist by bowling his heart out.
The match finally reached a fever pitch in the last ball with one run required to separate the teams and Zimbabwean skipper got the opportunity to break Irish hearts but his under-arm throw from behind the stumps missed the target though batsman Stuart Thompson was still yards short after colliding with a fielder while running from the non-striker's end. Panyangara bowled a yorker outside off and Alex Cusack tried to force it away only to miss it but sprinted for the winning bye, which he managed to complete amid much celebration in the Irish dugout. It was such drama that the players on the field looked bewildered for a few seconds.
Panyangara however deserves praise for the nerve-wracking finish, which was perfect in terms of entertainment value. He gave two runs off the first two balls and then bowled Joyce with a magnificent inswinging yorker which was followed by another yorker which batsman Sorensen had to dig out to mid-off and risked the single, but a throw from Williams was accurate. One run came off the fifth ball, a low full toss, to concentrate all the drama on the last ball.
Victorious skipper Porterfield also gave credit to the way Zimbabwe bowled in the last few overs while Taylor felt proud in the post-match briefing of the way his boys fought back, while saying that his team were 20 runs short.
It was however the 60-run innings from Stirling which made a mockery of the Zimbabweans' total of 163. The 23-year-old right-hander clobbered nine boundaries and a six during his 34-ball knock and Kevin O'Brien's 10-ball 17 cameo was crucial, but one must not forget the heroics of Panyangara, who took four wickets after conceding four boundaries to Stirling in his first over.
In the qualifying stage, the two opening group matches were most highlighted. But while Bangladesh, who take on Nepal today, proved everybody wrong by toying with the Afghans, Zimbabwe continued with their tag of a struggling Test side.