Sylhet, Bangladesh: Opener Paul Stirling smashed 60 off 34 balls to set Ireland up for a last-ball victory over Zimbabwe in their first-round match in the World Twenty20 championship on Monday.
Stirling’s fifth Twenty20 half-century, including nine fours and a six, helped Ireland to a three-wicket victory on St Patrick’s Day at the Sylhet stadium.
Ireland needed four runs off the last over but lost Ed Joyce (22) and Max Sorensen, run out without scoring, before winning through a bye off the last ball of the over — bowled by paceman Tinashe Panyangara who finished with 4-37.
Stirling and skipper William Porterfield, who scored a 23-ball 31 with three fours and a six, had given Ireland a fiery 80-run start in 8.2 overs as their run chase began confidently.
A ruthless Stirling hit paceman Panyangara for four boundaries in one over before he fell with the total on 100.
Ireland then lost three quick wickets to Panyangara, including that of hard-hitting Kevin O’Brien (17), before their last-gasp victory.
Zimbabwe earlier owed their total to a solid 46-ball 59 by Brendan Taylor. The Zimbabwe skipper hit six boundaries and two towering sixes, while Elton Chigumbura made 22 and Hamilton Masakadza scored 21.
But spinners George Dockrell (2-18) and debutant Andy McBrine (2-26) restricted Zimbabwe to 163-5 in their 20 overs.
The Group B defeat has put Zimbabwe in a tight corner as only one team will go on from each of the two Groups into the Super-10 stage.
Hosts Bangladesh beat Afghanistan and debutant Nepal downed Hong Kong in Group A matches on the opening day of the World Twenty20 on Sunday.
The two top teams from each Group will join the top eight seeds in the Super-10 stage, starting from March 21.
The final is on April 6 in Dhaka.
Ireland 163-5 in 20 overs (B. Taylor 59, E. Chigumbura 22, H. Masakadza 21; G. Dockrell 2-18, A. McBrine 2-26)
Ireland 164-7 in 20 overs (P. Stirling 60, W. Porterfield 31; T. Panyangara 4-37)
Ireland won by three wickets.