Bowlers Struggle as Hosts Dig Deep

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Byline: IAN CALLENDER reports from Harare

IRELAND have already realised that the easy bit in this Intercontinental Cup game in Harare will be scoring runs. Although their first-innings total of 465 has been bettered only five times by an Ireland team, they must take 20 wickets to beat the Zimbabwe XI and the bowlers will have to be at the top of their game. After three-and-a-half hours they have managed just three and all have been taken by Trent Johnston, consistently their top performer in every game this season.

But the 36-year-old can bowl only so many overs -- he has already delivered more than anyone else -- and the rest of Phil Simmons' attack will have to come to the party if they are to make inroads into a resolute home batting line-up. It helps that Zimbabwean captain Vusi Sibanda has failed in the first innings. He made 209 against Kenya in this competition this year but if Ireland thought there would be a collapse following the quick exit of their best batsman, they were in for a rude awakening. Fortunately, they have two days left and they resume this morning with a lead of 290.

Admittedly, Ireland were handicapped by the absence of Andre Botha, who was unable to bowl yesterday after injuring his right hand in a warm-up accident. The all-rounder needed two stitches between his middle fingers so it must be doubtful if he will bowl in the match and six other bowlers have, so far, been unable to make a breakthrough. …