Stephen Doheny made light of his lack of international experience to top score with 84 as Ireland beat Zimbabwe by 46 runs on Saturday to level their one-day international series.
After losing the toss and been put in to bat, Ireland made 294-7 in Harare with Doheny and Harry Tector (75) the chief contributors.
In response, Zimbabwe never matched the tourists’ run rate and despite half centuries from former England Test batsman Gary Ballance (52) and Innocent Kaia (51), they fell short.
Zimbabwe were all out for 248 in 47.3 overs, and now the stage is set for a series decider on Monday.
“It was hard to know if it was going to be enough (runs),” said Doheny. “We knew it was a good total, but we got (almost) the same score in the last game and still lost.
“Our top-order is really good, and we know if we bat throughout the innings, we will come out strong.”
Kaia said he is hopeful of a turnaround in the decider.
“We did not play at our best today. But definitely we will come back a much improved side on Monday,” he said.
“We are a Test nation and we have to find ways out of situations like we faced today. The dressing room is quite relaxed.”
The result bucked a trend as the team winning the toss and opting to bat second won all four previous tour matches — three in a Twenty20 series won 2-1 by Zimbabwe and the first ODI.
Doheny’s series opener
Doheny, 24, made his ODI debut in the series opener and scored just three runs as Zimbabwe won by three wickets.
But it was a different story in his second outing as he struck a six and seven fours before being caught at mid-off by Ballance.
Opening partner Paul Stirling, deputising as captain for injured Andy Balbirnie, set a good example with 45 runs, including two sixes and four fours, before Ballance caught him at fine leg.
Tector followed up a century three days ago with a brisk 75 off 61 deliveries, including one six and seven fours, before he was caught by Ryan Burl at deep mid-wicket.
Tendai Chatara (3-51) and Burl (2-66) were the best Zimbabwe bowlers.
Ballance was caught at long-off by Josh Little attempting an off drive having faced 67 balls and hit two fours.
Stirling caught Kaia, who struck a six and three fours, at extra cover off a short delivery from Little (4-38), the most successful Irish bowler.
Gujarat Titans have hired Little for the Indian Premier League season, making him the first Irish international to get an IPL contract.
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