A magnificent century by the captain Mary-Anne Musonda inspired Zimbabwe Women to an historic victory in their first ever one-day international (ODI), as they downed Ireland Women by four wickets at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday.
She scored 103 not out in fine style as the hosts successfully chased down a rather difficult target of 254.
Musonda won the toss and put Ireland Women in to bat on a warm and generally sunny morning.
Josephine Nkomo and Nomvelo Sibanda opened the bowling for Zimbabwe Women, and the tourists batted consistently all down the order.
It was Precious Marange who took the first wicket, though, as she had Gaby Lewis caught by Musonda for 13, with the total 28 in the ninth over.
Then came a series of good partnerships that took Ireland Women into a strong position.
Rebecca Stokell joined Gaby Lewis and they took the score to 59 after 17 overs, when Marange struck again, to have Lewis caught at the wicket by Modester Mupachikwa for 24.
This brought in the Ireland Women captain, Laura Delany, who was soon showing fine form.
At 96 Stokell was out for 22, lbw to Loreen Tshuma, but there followed the largest partnership of the innings, and the one that really gave Ireland Women the advantage, as Delany and Shauna Kavanagh put on 76 in 12 overs before the latter was bowled by Esther Mbofana for 31.
The score was now 172 for four wickets after 40 overs, as Delany and Oria Prendergast attacked the bowling to try to score as many runs as possible in the last 10.
They put on 48 in less than six overs before Prendergast was run out by Nkomo for 28 off 22 balls, the fastest of the innings at that stage.
Delany had looked capable of scoring a century, but at 220 she was caught by Ashley Ndiraya off Nkomo for 86, which took her 81 balls and included nine fours.
Sophie MacMahon at No 8 claimed back the advantage as she took her team through to their good total of 253 for eight wickets with a quickfire 29 off 13 balls, with four fours, before being caught by Nkomo off Sibanda f the final ball of the innings.
Five Zimbabwe Women bowlers took wickets, with Nkomo and Marange grabbing two each, for 46 and 48 respectively.
However, the most economical bowler was Tshuma, who took one wicket for only 32 runs off her 10 overs.
Zimbabwe Women did not begin their run-chase well, losing their openers, Chiedza Dhururu (4) and Mupachikwa (11) for 25 within six overs.
However, Musonda was in fine form from the start when she came in at this stage and carried the attack to the bowlers.
At the other end Ndiraya played an invaluable supporting role, scoring 24 before she was finally caught at the wicket for 24, when the score was 82 in the 14th over.
The middle order gave Musonda very sound support, with Pellagia Mujaji scoring 16 of a fourth-wicket partnership of 60, and Nkomo 25 out of 57 for the fifth wicket – 199 for five after 36 overs.
These partnerships gradually tilted the balance of the match towards the home side, and Marange at No 7 had the freedom to be more aggressive, scoring 27 off 23 balls as she put on 39 for the sixth wicket with Musonda.
When Marange was out victory was almost assured, with 16 still needed off more than eight overs.
Tshuma then joined Musonda, now on 96, but then rain began to fall after only a few more balls, and the players had to leave the field.
However, it did not last long, and the players soon returned.
After only a few more balls Musonda hit a four to bring up her heroic century, and only another three singles were needed to give Zimbabwe Women victory by four wickets with six overs and a ball to spare.
She finished with 103 not out, scored off 114 balls and containing nine fours.
This was indeed a day to celebrate for women’s cricket in Zimbabwe, winning their first ODI match after being granted official status by the ICC in April.
Zimbabwe Women have thus emulated the national men’s team, who also won their first-ever ODI back in 1983, when they beat Australia by 13 runs in the World Cup in England.