HARARE: Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer reveled in the “game of (his) career” after his team’s 107-run victory over Ireland in their World Cup qualifying clash in Harare on Thursday.
Scrapping to 211 for 9, Zimbabwe then bowled Ireland out for 104, taking virtually every chance that came their way.
Cremer’s side next take on two-time World Cup winners West Indies on Monday, knowing that one more win could be enough to clinch one of the last two spots for next year’s tournament in England and Wales.
“It was the performance of my career in the field,” said Cremer. “Sometimes we let it slip out there in the field, but today we just knocked the nail in the coffin.
“We know we can defend low totals. That’s what we said when we came out (for Ireland’s innings). And our bowlers were sensational today.”
Defending a total that Cremer admitted was “below par”, Zimbabwe desperately needed early wickets.
Opening the bowling with left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro, they quickly reduced Ireland to 18 for three inside the Powerplay.
Chisoro finished with three for 22, while Cremer claimed figures of three for 18 with his leg-spin.
In all, Zimbabwe’s spinners bowled 25.2 overs out of the 34.2 that Ireland faced, taking eight wickets.
“It was (an) extremely gettable target,” admitted Ireland captain William Porterfield.
“The wicket was tacky in the morning, and then it dried out. We knew we were going to face 35 plus overs of spin. Nothing was any surprise, we just didn’t play well enough. And when we lost some early wickets, they never let us back in the game.”
That Zimbabwe got to 211 at all was mostly due to the hard work of middle-order allrounder Sikandar Raza, who came to the wicket with Zimbabwe floundering at 87 for five and shepherded the second half of their innings with an unbeaten 69.
Zimbabwe allrounder … Sikandar Raza
Raza struck four fours and three sixes, including two in the last over, bowled by Barry McCarthy.
No other Zimbabwe batsman made more than 25.
Raza then played a hand in dismissing both of Ireland’s openers, holding on to a pull at midwicket off Porterfield to dismiss the Ireland captain for seven, and then running out the dangerous Paul Stirling for 41 as Ireland threatened to fight back.
Raza also claimed the scalp of no. 10 Boyd Rankin with his off-spin, and was named player of the match for his efforts.
“Raza was excellent with the bat again, he held the innings together and got us to somewhat of a respectable total,” said Cremer.
“He’s one of the guys that really wants to do well all the time. He loves performing on the big stage. He’s been a huge asset for us the last two years with the bat, with the ball, and in the field. He’s an all-round cricketer. He’s definitely my man of the match today.”
Brendan Taylor of Zimbabwe looks on as Paul Stirling of Ireland scores runs
Zimbabwe’s win took them to the top of the Super Six points table, with five points.
They have not lost a game in the competition, beating Nepal, Hong Kong and Afghanistan and battling to a tie against Scotland in the group stage.
Cremer suggested that the chance to claim a spot at the World Cup was a huge motivator for his side.
“Going to England next year is motivation enough,” said Cremer. “Where we’re sitting on the table now, we’re so close. We don’t want to let anything slip. We don’t want an over to go by or an hour to go by where we let things slip.”
“Our main goal in the tournament, right from the beginning, was to go through the tournament unbeaten,” added Cremer.
“So we’re going to take each game as it comes. We feel that we’re playing good enough cricket, and with the crowd behind us in our home conditions, if we play good cricket we shouldn’t lose a game.