ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Ireland v Zimbabwe

It’s a busy, and potentially significant, night/day for the Group B teams at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.  At around 3.30am [GMT] on Saturday Ireland will look to put the heavy defeat to South Africa behind them when they face Zimbabwe, in a rare ODI match-up, at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart, Australia.

And with India having done both teams a favour by, just, holding off the West Indies challenge last night to seal qualification for the quarter-finals, it’s all to play for. Ireland’s cricketers are making the right noises ahead of their early morning game, led by their captain William Porterfield. As the BBC report, opener Paul Stirling is ‘upbeat’, whilst Cricket Ireland talked to Ed Joyce.

First up though, at 1am [GMT], South Africa take on Pakistan.  South Africa can join India in the quarter-finals with a win, and I wouldn’t bet against them.  Certainly that’s the result that Ireland will be looking for.

It would leave Pakistan, West Indies and Ireland on 4 points, with Zimbabwe on 2, ahead of the early morning game in Hobart.  Bear with me in this speculation…

Zimbabwe need a win against Ireland to stay in contention, and complicate matters further, but a win for Ireland would see them leap the other two to 6 points – with a game in hand.  It should be close, but Ireland will have targeted this match as a potential win.

West Indies’ final match is against UAE.  A win there, and an even more improved Net Run Rate (NRR) than they currently have, could still see the West Indies through to the next stage.

Both Ireland and Zimbabwe have yet to face the unbeaten India side – it’s Zimbabwe’s only remaining game after Ireland.  Neither can realistically expect a win. Not to rule out a surprise, but a result for either would be a real shock.

A win for Ireland tonight, then, could set up the final game of both Group stages, Ireland v Pakistan on Sunday 15 March, as a potential knock-out match for both sides.  NRR may end up deciding it, if the West Indies are still in the mix.

ANYhoo… let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  The results may resolve the issue before any of that happens…

As ever, you can follow the early morning Ireland v Zimbabwe game on the BBC’s live-coverage via radio or text – alternatively, on cricinfo’s over-by-over text commentary. I’ll try to update in the morning.

Update  Pakistan beat South Africa by 29 runs, in a Duckworth/Lewis adjusted target, throwing all my predictions out.

And, Ireland reached 331 for 8 from 50 overs after being put in to bat by Zimbabwe.

Chasing 332 runs to win, Zimbabwe are 326 all out from 49.3 overs.

7 runs required from the final over.  Bowled first ball!  Cusack strikes vital blow.

Final wicket falls.  Zimbabwe are 326 all out from 49.3 overs.

Ireland win by 5 runs!  What a game.

Cusack had 4 wickets for 32 runs from 9.3 overs.  Man of the match!

Adds As RTÉ reports

Ireland coach Phil Simmons admitted to a few nerves as his side scraped home against Zimbabwe but praised his players’ ‘hearts of steel’ in securing the win.

Ireland beat the Africans by five runs in a tense finish in Tasmania after allowing their opponents back into the game late on.

“They keep doing this but if it happens all the time and you win it tends to be nice,” said Simmons.

“They’ve done it again where we’ve gone to the last over and we’ve shown that we have hearts of steel and strength of mind right through. It’s good to see.

Indeed.  And,

Zimbabwe were Ireland’s second Test nation scalp after victory in the opening game against the West Indies, but it now looks like they will need a third against either India or Pakisatan to make the quarter-finals.

Despite the apparent scale of that task, Simmons is bullish about his team’s chances.

“We came here to win all six,” he said. “We’ve won three and lost one so we’ve just got to work on how to win the two.”

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