Harry Tector claimed a wicket with his sixth ball in T20 internationals yesterday and followed up with another as Ireland fought hard to defend a meagre total of 114 all out at the Harare Sports Club before losing to Zimbabwe by five wickets.

Put into bat in the first of three-match series, the Boys in Green struggled to come to terms with a sluggish, two-paced pitch and only debutant Stephen Doheny (15), Curtis Campher (20) and Gareth Delany (24) reached double figures.

Tector, who had sent down eight overs of off spin in his previous 74 international appearances, was given the new ball and would have had a wicket with his first delivery but for a spilled catch at short cover.

The let off for Craig Ervine was short lived, though, as the Zimbabwe captain holed out to Barry McCarthy at the end of the opening over, and Ireland were in with a sniff when the excellent Mark Adair snared an lbw two balls later.

The home side had former England batsman Gary Ballance in their line-up for the first time and needed his experience to guide the chase after Tector located Wessly Madhavere’s middle stump to return impressive figures of 2-17 from four overs.

Adair, leading the attack in the absence of Josh Little, found an edge to have Ballance caught behind for 30 but veteran Sean Williams, a perennial thorn in Ireland’s side, made 34 not out to see the hosts home with two overs to spare.

“It’s always tricky when you get a score like that,” skipper Andy Balbirnie said. “We probably didn’t adapt to the pitch quickly enough because 130-140 might have been enough, and even so we created enough chances in the field to keep us in the hunt.

“We need to get better quickly with the bat because that’s what cost us.”

With back-to-back games to come on the same square over the weekend, Ireland must regret not including spinners Simi Singh or Andy McBrine in their 15-strong squad, although the latter will play in next week’s three-match ODI series.