HOBART: Ireland just did enough to see off Zimbabwe by five runs in a thrilling World Cup clash in Hobart on Saturday that kept them on course for the quarter-finals.
Zimbabwe chasing a huge 332 to win, were all but beaten at 74 for four after a top-order collapse.
But stand-in captain Brendan Taylor’s superb 121 and a fifth-wicket stand of 149 with Sean Williams (96) gave Zimbabwe hope.
However, a see-saw match turned back the non-Test nation’s way when Williams was given out caught right on the boundary by John Mooney.
There was a suggestion that Mooney may have touched the rope in completing the catch, which would have been a six to Zimbabwe.
But while the umpires’ review was in progress, Williams — whose runs came from 83 balls with seven fours and two sixes – walked off the field, effectively making the decision for the officials and Zimbabwe were 300 for seven.
Big-hitting from tailender Tawanda Mupawira got the target down to seven off the last six balls with two wickets standing.
However, seamer Alex Cusack had Regis Chakabva playing on with the first ball of the 50th over and, two deliveries later, Mupawira holed out to Ireland captain William Porterfield in the deep as the Irish won with three balls to spare.
Cusack finished with fine figures of four for 32 in 9.3 overs as Zimbabwe, who tied a World Cup match with Ireland in 2007, saw their bid for a last eight place come to a dramatic end.
Victory left Ireland as one of three teams in Pool B on six points behind already qualified leaders India, the defending champions.
Earlier, Ireland veteran Ed Joyce’s 112 was the centrepiece of an imposing total of 331 for eight.
Joyce made Zimbabwe pay for dropping him early in his innings by going on to 112 while Andrew Balbirnie struck a quickfire 97 after Ireland lost the toss.
The pair put on 138 for the third wicket at Bellerive.
Taylor, leading the side in place of the injured Elton Chigumbura, opted to bowl first in overcast conditions after winning the toss.
Zimbabwe had an early success when Paul Stirling (10) guided Tinashe Panyangara to Williams at backward point.
Joyce should have been out when, on 34, he saw Mupariwa drop a skyed caught and bowled chance.
The left-hander came out of his shell and went on to a 96-ball hundred with eight fours and two sixes.
He was dropped again, on 105, by Craig Ervine before the same fielder held an easy chance at short midwicket to dismiss him.
Meanwhile Balbirnie, who gave a tough caught and bowled chance to Williams early on, scored his second successive fifty following his gutsy 58 in the 201-run thrashing by South Africa.
He faced just 79 balls, with seven fours and four sixes, before falling agonisingly short of what would have been a maiden ODI century when run out in the final over of Ireland’s innings.
Zimbabwe were left needing to set a new record score by a team batting second to win a World Cup match, surpassing Ireland’s 329 for seven against England in Bangalore four years ago.
However, their top-order failed to make an impact before Taylor and Williams repaired the early damage.
Taylor was especially impressive with a 79-ball hundred — the fastest by a Zimbabwe batsman — including 10 fours and two sixes.
It was Zimbabwe’s first century of this World Cup and the 29-year-old Taylor’s seventh in 166 ODIs.
Taylor struck two sixes in one over from left-arm spinner George Dockrell before he was deceived by Cusack’s slower ball and skyed a catch to Kevin O’Brien.