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Zimbabwe eyes rare series sweep

Ireland will bank on its batting and bowling to fire in unison in the third and final ODI

Zimbabwe eyes rare series sweep - Cricket News
Chamu Chibhabha celebrates a wicket
Ireland hasn't been able to maintain the form it showed in the early stages of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015. It had made a bright start to the tournament with three consecutive wins. However, since then, there has been only one win in seven matches. On Sunday, in the second One Day International against Zimbabwe, Ireland lost by five wickets - a result that gave the home side  an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. In the third and final ODI on Tuesday (October 13), when both sides face off at the Harare Sports Club in Harare, Ireland will look to end the series on a bright note, while Zimbabwe will be eyeing a 3-0 sweep.
 
Ireland still has an important season ahead, with a crucial tie against Namibia coming up in the second round of the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2015-17. That is apart from two ODIs each against Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Ireland has a four-day match against Zimbabwe A to help it prepare for the all-important Intercontinental Cup match. However, that is the only chance it has, apart from the final ODI against Zimbabwe on Tuesday, which makes it imperative for it to get a win under its belt. 
 
In order to achieve that, however, Ireland will need to ensure that it fires on all cylinders. In the first ODI, the bowlers did a commendable job in defending a total of 219 for 8, and Zimbabwe won narrowly by two wickets. The Ireland batsmen did much better in the second game, with half-centuries from Paul Stirling, Niall O'Brien and Gary Wilson helping set a competitive 268 for 7. However, the bowlers could not back that effort, and Zimbabwe chased down the target. 
 
The biggest advantage for Ireland will be the form of Wilson, who has scored half-centuries in both matches. That apart, Ed Joyce scored a half-century in the series opener, and with Stirling and Niall joining the party in the last game, four members of its core batting group are in good nick.   
 
George Dockrell has been the most important member of the bowling unit and the left-arm spinner will once again carry Ireland's hopes with the ball. Dockrell will be assisted by Andy McBrine, the off-spinner. The pace bowling duties will likely be carried out by the trio of John Mooney, Tim Murtagh and Kevin O'Brien once again. 


 
Zimbabwe, meanwhile, has been unrelenting in this series and duly finds itself on the right side of a 2-0 margin. It heads into the final match of the series with the confidence gained from its first ODI series win in more than two years. The win was made possible by a fabulous century from Craig Ervine, who anchored its chase of 269 with an unbeaten 101. Ervine was also instrumental in Zimbabwe winning the opening encounter, when his 60, along with an identical score by Sikandar Raza, aided Zimbabwe's chase of a small, yet tricky target. Raza also came good in the last match with a breezy 33 in the latter part of the chase. Zimbabwe's area of concern will be the opening combination of Chamu Chibhabha and Richmond Mutumbami, neither of whom has made a big score in the two games. 
 
As is the case with Ireland, Zimbabwe has relied on spin. John Nyumbu, the off-break bowler, has done a reasonable job in both games. He will have the part time left-arm spin of Sean Williams for support. 
 
The last time Zimbabwe swept a series was in 2008-09, when it beat Kenya 5-0 away. The third ODI will offer the home side an opportunity to repeat that feat.

Teams (from):
 
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sikandar Raza Butt, Brian Chari, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Luke Jongwe, Neville Madziva, Wellington Masakadza, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Taurai Muzarabani, John Nyumbu, Tinashe Panyangara, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams.
 
Ireland: William Porterfield (capt), Andrew Balbirnie, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, John Mooney, Tim Murtagh, Andrew McBrine, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Stuart Poynter (wk), Max Sorensen, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson (wk), Craig Young. 

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