Chigumbara''s hundred goes down drain, Ireland beat Zimbabwe

Jamtha (Nagpur), Feb 15 (PTI) Fighting half-centuriesfrom Andre Botha and Kevin O''Brien helped Ireland score anail-biting four-wicket win over Zimbabwe in their warm-up tieahead of the cricket World Cup here today.

Chasing 245 to win, Ireland were slow but steady andachieved the target with three balls to spare at VidarbhaCricket Association Stadium.

Zimbabwe''s decision to bat backfired as they were reducedto 12 for three inside 10 overs before captain EltonChigumbara rescued his side with a 103-run knock off 81 balls,leading them to a competitive 244 for eight in 50 overs.

Former captain and wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu (45) wasthe only other batsman, who chipped in with runs to defy theIreland attack and contribute to team reaching a decent total.

While replying, Ireland did not make a flying start buttheir strategy to keep the wickets in hand worked to theiradvantage.

Botha top-scored for Ireland with his 79-run knockand shared a 99-run stand for the fifth-wicket with O''Brien,who remained unbeaten at 62.

Paceman Shingirai Masakadza raised Zimbabwe''s hopes atone stage by dismissing Botha in the 47th over to leaveIreland needing another 19 runs from as many balls.

But O''Brien kept his cool and romped his side home.

Botha shone with the ball as well by finishing withimpressive figures of two for 58.

Earlier, Zimbabwe started on a bad note, losing BrendanTaylor (1), Charles Coventary (5) and Sean Williams (3)cheaply with Ireland''s pace duo of Trent Johnston and BoydRankin causing havoc.

The run out of Craig Ervine (27) added to the woes of theAfrican side even as Taibu held on to his wicket at the otherend.

However, spinner Albert van der Merwe soon removed himas well, to leave Zimbabwe reeling at 100 for five.

Chigumbura then added 54 runs for the sixth wicket withProsper Utseya (26) to consolidate the innings.

But he did not get much support from his lower-orderand single-handedly drove Zimbabwe near the 250-run mark.

Zimbabwe will play their inaugural match of the World Cupagainst defending champions Australia on February 21, whileIreland will take on co-hosts Bangladesh on February 25.

Brief scores:

Zimbabwe: 244 for 8 in 50 overs (Elton Chigumbara not out103, tatenda Taibu 45; Trent Johnston 2/09, Andre Botha 2/58).

Ireland: 245 for 6 in 49.3 overs (Andre Botha 79, KevinO''Brien 62; Ray Price 2/37, Shingirai Masakadza 2/39).

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