Alex Cusack and Stuart Thompson scrambled a bye off the final ball to win the match in Sylhet, but the relieved hugs and high-fives on the Ireland bench betrayed how close Phil Simmons’ team had come to throwing away victory at the death.
It was shredded nerves for those watching at home as well when Ireland lost Ed Joyce and Max Sorensen with just four needed from the final over, and one from the final delivery, but Zimbabwe wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor missed with his throw at the stumps and Thompson somehow made his ground despite colliding with Prosper Utseya as he dived.
Ireland won the toss and chose to field, and their young spinners George Dockrell (2-18) and Andy McBrine (2-26) were the stand-out bowlers as Zimbabwe were restricted to 163-5 in their 20 overs.
Ireland captain William Porterfield and fellow opener Stirling (60) put on 80 for the first wicket and Ireland looked well on track.
However, Ireland lost their way as the innings progressed and were grateful for Thompson’s dive and Taylor’s wayward throw.
“We needed seven runs off 12 balls and you should never lose a game from there but the Zimbabwe death bowlers put us under great pressure — we are just relieved to get over the line,” skipper Porterfield said.
The UAE are next up for Ireland tomorrow with the final group game against the Dutch on Friday.