0703-1-1-BTRobson Sharuko in HOBART, Australia

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ZIMBABWE’S World Cup dreams ended in a hail of controversy here under the lights of the Blundstone Arena as the Chevrons crashed to an agonising five-run defeat at the hands of Ireland in a thriller that will forever be overshadowed by a questionable — if not diabolical — umpiring call.

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With the Zimbabweans well-set to overhaul their biggest run chase in an ODI game, and an outstanding Sean Williams in control and just a boundary short of a deserved century, fate once again denied the team in cruel fashion and they fell five runs short of keeping their World Cup adventure alive.

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Williams’ farcical dismissal, five balls into the 46th over, was the key moment of a game Zimbabwe needed to win to keep themselves in the World Cup, with a game against defending champions India to close their campaign this week.

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When Williams swung a ball delivered by Kevin O’Brien over the leg side, he picked out John Mooney on the boundary. And it was a difficult catch, with television replays showing that the Irishman’s shoe touched the rope as he completed that catch.

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That should have meant Williams had knocked a six.

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Instead Mooney celebrated — which he was entitled to — and Williams briefly stood his ground as the umpires checked if it was a legitimate dismissal or it should be a six that would have given the Zimbabwe batsman a deserved century.

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Somehow, brutal judgment was mete out on Williams even as television replays supported his cause. And the irony of it all is that Zimbabwe fell five runs short in the end.

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Had that six been given, as should have been the case, then this could have been a victory for the Zimbabweans, something that their courageous run chase merited after a poor day in the field in which their generosity kept gifting the Irish lives they clearly didn’t deserve.

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The Zimbabweans will look back at this World Cup and wonder why fate was always against them.

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Like when Chris Gayle survived a controversial umpire’s call while on zero and then went on to score a double century to give the West Indies victory.

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Or when giant Pakistan bowler Mohammad Irfan kept bowling no balls that the umpires did not pick, allowing the Asians to defend a small target to win a crucial match against the Zimbabweans.

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Valiant Brendan Taylor, the captain on the day, led from the front with a brilliant century as he gave his side’s chase the impetus it needed after they had lost big wickets cheaply to stutter at 74-4 in pursuit of Ireland’s 331-8 in their 50 overs.

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Having won the toss, Taylor put the Irish in to bat and Ed Joyce was given a number of lives on a horror day for Zimbabwe in the field as they kept dropping catches, before he hit the century on which his team built their innings.

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Then, after Zimbabwe had lost their way at the top in the run chase under lights, Taylor’s brilliant 121 off 91 balls (two sixes and 11 fours) and Williams’ 96 brought them back into the game.

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Their 149-run partnership for the fifth wicket took Zimbabwe closer until Taylor perished trying to lift Alex Cusack over cover only to be deceived by the slower ball and find Kevin O’Brien.

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Still, Zimbabwe remained in the match and Williams took charge, playing well and progressing to his 100 until that unfortunate dismissal.

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“You’ve got to take (Mooney’s) word for (the catch), but they zoomed in, and I thought it was pretty clear,” said a dejected Taylor afterwards. “But you’ve got to take the fielder’s word. My feeling was that the fielder gave the impression that it was a clean catch and it’s one of those things; you genuinely get the fielder’s opinion and go with it. And I don’t know whether the umpires could have made a stronger call and have a few more looks at it but that’s all history.”

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Taylor, however, emphasised that even though there were questions over that dismissal, he still felt his team should have done more to get over the line.

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“It’s pretty frustrating to be in a winning situation again, and throw it away a little bit. Ireland were a little bit more hungry, they deserved to win,” he conceded. “It hasn’t been clever cricket from us, at crucial periods. It’s a tough one to follow. The bowling was poor, really. We weren’t hungry in the field, our energy levels were poor.”

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There was drama when Tawanda Mupariwa tore into Kevin O’Brien in the 48th over; hitting two, four, four, six and two, and suddenly the Zimbabweans needed just seven off the final over with two wickets in hand.

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It needed cool heads but Regis Chakabva, who had done well up to this time and as the last recognised batsman was expected to take his team home, decided to attack Cusack by swiping across the line when trying to hit the first ball of the final over out of the ground.

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He failed. And the inside edge meant he perished and the luck of the Irish came to the fore.

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Still, the game could have been won by one swing of the bat and when Mupariwa got on strike, after Tendai Chatara had somehow scrambled a single, there was hope for Zimbabwe.

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Unfortunately, Mupariwa was dismissed by Cusack, holing out to William Porterfield and the Irish, aided by a large slice of controversy, had won a thriller.

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Zimbabwe could only reach 326 all out, with three balls to spare, and a run chase that had appeared good enough to take them over the line a few overs earlier, fell five runs short.