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History says Ireland vs Zimbabwe will be close at World Cup

March 6, 2015

HOBART, Australia (AP) — If Ireland’s Pool A match against Zimbabwe on Saturday is anything like their last meeting the Cricket World Cup, it’ll be too close to call.

At Kingston, Jamaica in 2007, Ireland batted first and put up a total of 221. Zimbabwe was on course for a win, needing 19 runs from 39 balls with five wickets in hand. Then panic set in, with three run-outs in two overs resulting in a tied match — a rarity in one-day international cricket.

Much has changed since then, when Ireland getting close to beating a test-ranked team was considered surprising. Ireland went to beat Pakistan at the same tournament in one of the bigger upsets in World Cup history, sending the 1992 champions out of contention in the group stage.

The Irish opened the 2015 World Cup with a four-wicket win over West Indies and followed it up with a last-over, two-wicket win over the United Arab Emirates before crashing back to reality with a 201-run loss to South Africa.

Ireland captain William Porterfield doesn’t think the big loss will be a major setback as his team prepares to face Zimbabwe, which has one win from four matches, because South Africa “played close to a perfect game.”

“We’re two from three at the moment, and going into tomorrow looking to make that,” three from four, he said. “Haven’t played them a lot ... (but) Looking at tables, things like that, it suggests we’re quite close together.”

Porterfield made his World Cup debut in 2007, and has vivid recollections of the tie against Zimbabwe as a “very memorable day.”

“It obviously was a big point for us in the context of that group. We had a few group games and got that and the win over Pakistan,” he said. “So it was a big starting point for us.”

Expectations in the Ireland squad now are that they’re capable of reaching the quarterfinals, meaning they’ll need to beat Zimbabwe and possibly one of India or Pakistan to advance.

“We’re halfway through our group campaign. I don’t think it’s crunch time for ourselves,” he said. “If you start looking too far ahead in games and things like that and the competition, then you’re taking your eye off the ball.”

Zimbabwe needs a win or it could well be out of contention. Making matters worse, skipper Elton Chigumbura will be missing after injuring his thigh in the loss to Pakistan last weekend.

“Absolutely. It’s a crunch game for us, and it is for them, too,” veteran wicketkeeper batsman Brendan Taylor said. “We know we need to win this game. There are no grey areas there.

“We certainly targeted this game. We’re not taking them lightly. They’re a quality side when the game gets going.”

Taylor said Regis Chakabva will replace Chigumbura in the lineup, and the squad was optimistic and “surprisingly upbeat.”

As for the tie in 2007, the only meeting between the two teams at the World Cup, Taylor remembers both teams had good chances to win it.

“I remember that very well,” he said. “We all kicked ourselves. There was a chance for Ireland to win, and there was a chance for us to win. But we played them twice on St. Patrick’s Day in T20 and 50-over World Cup, so it’s a new day. We’ll both be up for it and both excited to play.”

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