Chevrons look to bounce back in ODI decider PATRIOTISM . . . A young cricket fan proudly displays the Zimbabwean flag as he cheers the Chevrons on during their second ODI match against Ireland at Harare Sports Club on Saturday. The youngster, who was part of a huge crowd of more than 10 000, is expected to be back at the same venue today to witness the two sides facing each other again in the series decider. — Photo by Cricket Zimbabwe.

Eddie Chikamhi-Senior Sports Reporter

OPENING batsman Innocent Kaia has vowed Zimbabwe are determined to turn the tables around against Ireland in the decisive One Day International cricket match at Harare Sports Club today.

The Chevrons were run over by 46 runs on Saturday, as Ireland leveled the series 1-1 and set up a potentially explosive final match-up at the same venue today.

Zimbabwe had won the opening encounter of the three-match series by three wickets, with the victory coming on the last ball of the nail-biting match.

Although the matches between Zimbabwe and Ireland have become close contests, the Irish on Saturday claimed a deserving win following a superior batting performance.

“It happens but the best teams always bounce back.

“Definitely on Monday (today) we are going to win. We are a Test nation and whenever we face these kinds of situations we know how to manoeuvre. So it’s not something new; it’s not something that makes us afraid,” said Kaia.

“Our changing room is quite relaxed. We are not panicking after this loss. The same processes that we have had before; the coach is like ‘you know what guys? It’s just a game of cricket. You don’t have to think too much. Come on Monday, turn things around and win the game’.  

“He (Dave Houghton) is that guy who is always positive when it comes to winning games. The fans have to keep supporting us. They must turn up again in their numbers. We love them and we hope to win the game for them,” said Kaia.

The 30-year-old is expected to get another chance today after impressing with his second ODI career half ton (51 runs off 70 balls) on Saturday.

But the technical team could once again be forced to make a rethink of the troublesome opening partnership, which has been Zimbabwe’s Achilles’ Heel in this series.

Kaia opened with Tadiwanashe Marumani on Saturday but the 21-year-old is still finding it difficult to transform his domestic form to the internationals. Marumani went out for a golden duck, trapped lbw by Man of the Match Josh Little.

He had replaced Wessly Madhevere, another young player struggling with his form. Madhevere scored only two runs in the first ODI, when he opened the innings with Kaia. The partnership got nine runs.

“What is happening to our youngsters; it can happen to anybody. So I don’t want to criticise anyone but I think they will get it right,” said Kaia.

But whoever is going to start today, the Chevrons will be hoping for improved fortunes from their openers. The hosts will also be praying for the availability of skipper Craig Ervine, who missed the second game through injury.

Veteran Chamu Chibhabha could have set himself up as an option at the top after he received a surprise call back to the national team last week on account of his fine domestic form. The 36-year-old contributed 40 runs in an 89-run partnership for the second wicket with Kaia on Saturday. He had last played an ODI for Zimbabwe, against Pakistan, in November 2020.

Houghton said before the series that the door was open to all performing players on the domestic scene and Kaia, Marumani and Chibhabha, in particular, were some of the beneficiaries.

“Chamu is a quality player. When he was introduced to the squad everyone was happy because he is an experienced player,” said Kaia.

But Zimbabwe would need to come up with a plan to counter the Irish batsmen after the tourists plundered runs in the opening two games. Ireland’s batting has clearly been their major strength. They scored 294/7 in their allotted 50 overs on Saturday.

They had also piled up 288/4 in the first match which they, however, lost by three wickets via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method, following rain interruptions.

And on Saturday, Ireland looked determined after their defeat in the first match. They had a brilliant opening partnership between their stand-in captain Paul Stirling (45) and Stephen Doheny (84), promoted in his second ODI.

The pair put on 104 runs in 21 overs to set the stage for a big total. Harry Tector, who scored a ton in the first match, also made a big contribution with 75 runs.

“It was disappointing the way we bowled. I think we didn’t bowl our best as there were too many extras, of which it wasn’t really necessary and it ended up costing us the match,” said Kaia.

Zimbabwe conceded 27 extras, including 21 wide balls. Ireland, in contrast, had only eight extras.  

Ireland’s stand-in captain Paul Stirling believes the Irish now have the momentum after winning the second game.

“Any score above 280 here you are in the game. It’s hard not to bowl first here. (Lorcan) Tector has been amazing for us for a long time now. Hopefully this patch continues for long. Big momentum with us now. Hopefully we can play well and win the series,” said Stirling.

Doheny also concurred. The Ireland opener is hoping that they continue with their excellent batting today.

“I think in 50-over cricket you definitely want wickets in the bank down to the death overs. So I think our top order has been really good. If we can try and keep wickets in the bank, we come out strong. Fortunately for us the top order has done it for us. So, long may they continue!” said Doheny.

The 24-year-old, who made his ODI debut in Zimbabwe last week, was also blown away by the passion shown by the Zimbabwe cricket fans. Doheny is set for his third ODI start today, after helping Ireland level the series 1-1.  

“Unbelievable, it’s definitely the best crowd that I have played in front of.  Day after day the guys keep coming out, whether it’s midweek or its weekend. It’s remarkable, it’s a wonderful experience,” said Doheny.

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