Burl pummels Ireland into submission ON FIRE . . . Zimbabwe all-rounder Ryan Burl (left) strikes the ball down the field as Ireland wicketkeeper Stephen Doheny follows the action closely during the third T20I at Harare Sports Club yesterday — Pic by ZimCricket.

Eddie Chikamhi-Senior Sports Reporter

RYAN Burl produced an all-round show to help Zimbabwe pull off a stunning four-wicket win and bag the T20I series over close rivals Ireland at the Harare Sports Club yesterday.

Fittingly, Burl was named Man of the Match for his 2/28 with the ball and a blistering 30 runs from 11 balls at the back end of the innings, which turned what looked a likely disappointment into wild scenes of jubilation at the packed cricket arena.

The fans created an electric atmosphere for the home team with an estimated 10 000 crowd solidly rallying behind the Chevrons in this do-or-die encounter. The numbers and this kind of passion in the terraces; you cannot see this in the local football games these days.

Luke Jongwe, who joined Burl at the crease late on, struck the winning runs with a boundary as Zimbabwe chased down Ireland’s 141/9 successfully, with six balls remaining in this nervy encounter.

Zimbabwe claimed the series 2-1, despite missing key players Sean Williams and Gary Ballance for the decider. The victory delighted the Chevrons’ head coach Dave Houghton, who had been forced to make some changes following the injuries in his change room.  

Houghton was particularly pleased by the contributions from skipper Craig Ervine, who stabilised the innings with his 43-ball 54 runs and Burl’s match-winning feat with both ball and bat. Zimbabwe were also missing Sikandar Raza and injured Blessing Muzarabani for the series.

“I think we obviously want to grow with a young team but in order to have that growth you need some senior players to play around and to learn from,” said Houghton, signalling the direction his team could be taking, after the match.

“And, sadly we had lost a couple of senior players in the last few days and it was important that some guys like Craig Ervine stood up and played the role. I think he has had a fantastic three-game series.

“And, someone like Ryan Burl; a couple of times he is a batsman who bowls leg spin and yet he wins more games for us bowling his leg spin than he does with the bat.

“So I had a conversation with him this morning. That’s the sort of finishing that we want from Ryan and we want it more often,” said Houghton.  

Williams was left out because of a finger injury and replaced by Tony Munyonga while Luke Jongwe came in for Brad Evans.

Ballance sat out his second successive game after suffering a mild concussion when Zimbabwe defeated Ireland by five wickets in the series opener last Thursday.

The series was hanging delicately in the balance going into the decider after the Chevrons had lost the second match by six wickets on Saturday. 

But they showed a lot of intent earlier on yesterday, after winning the toss and elected to bowl first. Interestingly, the team that has bowled first has gone on to win during this series.

Zimbabwe had three wickets in the bag after just 3.5 overs, and conceding 19 runs. But Ireland showed some resistance in the middle overs with Harry Tector (47), Curtis Campher (27) and George Dockrell (23) helping the visitors to a defendable total.

The wickets were shared among the Zimbabwean bowlers as Wessly Madhevere, Luke Jongwe, Tendai Chatara and Burl took two apiece.  

In response, the Chevrons started off slowly and lost Tadiwanashe Marumani (5), with just 10 runs on the board and 2.5 overs gone. Marumani has been struggling to find his footing throughout the series.

Zimbabwe were batting well below the required run rate for most of the time yesterday. Skipper Ervine tried to hurry up things but the Irish bowlers remained on top of the situation.

They got a crucial second wicket when Innocent Kaia was caught by Mark Adair off the bowling of Harry Tector, leaving Zimbabwe on 52/2 after 8.5 overs.

Then Madhevere, the other player that has been finding the going tough with the bat during this series, gave away a soft catch, when he tried to reverse sweep a full toss from Ben White. Ireland skipper Bilbirnie took an excellent catch at the slip.

White struck again and Zimbabwe were four wickets down when Munyonga was caught by Curtis Campher at the deep midwicket boundary attempting to clear the ropes. The ball however could not get the desired distance.

The run rate kept creeping upwards and Zimbabwe needed almost 10 runs an over in the last five overs. Ervine held the innings together and he got to his seventh T20I half ton off 39 balls, with six boundaries.

Ervine, however, left shortly after the milestone when he fell to the bowling of Mark Adair. The left-hander miscued a top edge to Campher. This was a big blow to Zimbabwe, as Ireland appeared to seize the initiative in the final overs.

The hosts needed something special to wrestle the game back and pay back the vociferous crowds that had stood enthusiastically behind them from the start of the series.

Burl brought the much needed impetus in the 18th over, which yielded 19 runs and effectively turned the game back in favour of the home team.

The all-rounder completely changed the script with two huge sixes and a four off the last three balls of the 18th over by Dockrell. Burl was also named Player of the Series.

Despite the fall of the sixth wicket of Madande in the penultimate over, Zimbabwe were still good to go over the line and Jongwe did it with aplomb as his boundary from the only legal delivery he faced took the score to 144/6 in 19 overs.

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