It was a birthday to remember for Ireland’s Amy Hunter who became the youngest centurion in international cricket at 16 years of age in the fourth ODI against Zimbabwe, helping her team win by 86 runs. Amy beat Mithali Raj’s record as she helped Ireland to a series win against Zimbabwe. Mithali had set the women’s record with an unbeaten 114 against Ireland in 1999 at the age of 16 years and 205 days.
Needing a win to level the series and avoid a series loss, Zimbabwe won the toss and put Ireland into bat first in the fourth and final ODI.
Ireland openers Leah Paul and Gaby got the team off to a steady start yet again but could not replicate their performances from the previous two games where they strung a 100-run partnership in each game. Esther Mbofana struck for Zimbabwe in the Powerplay and rattled the stumps of Leah to send her back to the pavilion for 12.
At the other end, Gaby’s purple patch continued as she registered her third consecutive fifty. At the other end, Amy Hunter too played her shots as the two put on a 104-run partnership for the second wicket before Lewis made the long walk back.
Skipper Laura Delany joined Amy at the crease and upped the scoring rate after the top-order had laid a solid foundation for a huge score. Amy, who had registered a string of low scores in the first three ODIs of her career, brought up her maiden fifty soon. Amy, who turned 16 on the day, made the occasion even more memorable as she went on to score her first ODI century, thus becoming the youngest player in the history of the game, male or female, to score an international century in any form of the game.
By the time Laura got out after scoring 68 off 53, Ireland were in a box seat. Amy and Orla Prendergast put the finishing touches to the innings and propelled Ireland to 312/3 at the end of the 50 overs.
Ireland broke through early in the second over with the wicket of Modester Mupachikwa. Ashley Ndiraya and Josephine Nkomo did manage to steady the ship with a 96-run stand but some great bowling from Ireland meant that the asking rate kept climbing.
Josephine brought up her maiden ODI fifty but did not find enough support at the other end as Zimbabwe kept losing wickets at regular intervals as they slipped from 139/2 at one stage to 178/6, by which time the required run rate was over 13.
The tail-enders ensured that Zimbabwe batted out the 50 overs but fell short by 86 runs as they finished on 227/8. Ireland, who were playing their first ODI series since 2018, completed a great turnaround after going 1-0 down to seal the series 3-1.