Josh Little’s six-wicket haul in the second one-day international in Harare was described as by Paul Stirling as “one of the best spells up front I have seen” as Ireland took a rare series lead, against Zimbabwe.
Little’s figures of six for 36 was the new high by an Ireland bowler in ODIs and set up a four wickets victory which was not as comfortable as it should have been. But with 10 overs to spare, it was still an emphatic margin and gives Ireland the chance to complete a series victory in the final game of the tour.
Although Zimbabwe captain Sikander Raza won the toss, Little reduced the hosts to 19 for four after just six overs – only twice before had Ireland taken the first four wickets for fewer runs – and when he returned for a third spell he had top scorer Wellington Mazakadza caught at mid-wicket by Stirling, to give him his first five-for in Ireland colours.
Two balls later he emulated Stirling, the only other player to take six wickets in an ODI for Ireland, but despite having 10 balls left, and the last pair at the wicket he failed to make it a magnificent seven.
Stirling also praised Mark Adair for the ‘dot ball pressure’ at the other end – he went for just two scoring shots in his first three overs – and deservedly picked up the final wicket.
Adair also hit the winning runs but the batting star was Curtis Campher, in only his second innings at No 3, who hit 66 from 71 balls, with 10 fours as the big three of Andrew Balbirnie, bowled from the first ball of the match, Stirling and Harry Tector scored only 35 between them, while Lorcan Tucker was, frustratingly, out in the 20s again. All five were bowled.
But this was Little’s big day and he also further depleted Zimbabwe’s resources for Sunday’s game when he hit Ryan Burl on the helmet in his devastating opening spell. Burl batted on for another 26 overs but failed a concussion check at the interval and was replaced by a substitute fielder.
SCORES: Zimbabwe 166 (42.5 overs, W Mazakadza 40, R Burl 38, C Madande 33; J Little 6-36, H Tector 1-5, M Adair 1-23, C Young 1-30, A McBrine 1-34) Ireland 170-6 (40.1 overs, C Campher 66, L Tucker 28, M Adair 25 not out, H Tector 21, P Stirling 14; B Muzarabani 2-23, B Mavuta 2-37). Ireland won by 4 wickets and lead series 1-0.