Andy Balbirnie struck an unbeaten 82 to guide Ireland to a seven-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in Harare yesterday and deliver a first one-day international series win for his great mate and new skipper Paul Stirling.

It was the first time the Boys in Green have won an ODI series in Zimbabwe - the 2-0 scoreline doubling up on their 2-1 success in the T20s. 

Ireland dismissed the home side for 197, either side of a lengthy rain break, thanks in the main to four wickets each from Curtis Campher and Graham Hume, and a superb run-out by Harry Tector to end a dogged second-wicket partnership.

With the match reduced to 40 overs per side, DLS gave Ireland a slightly increased target of 201 and after the early loss of Stirling, the result was rarely in doubt.

Balbirnie started patchily but began to find the middle after reaching his 16th ODI half-century (he also has eight hundreds) and finished with four fours and a six from 102 balls faced, as he bounced back from a first-baller on Friday.

Campher made a fluent 40, including six boundaries, Tector added further support with a measured 33 and Lorcan Tucker took Ireland over the line with 29 not out from 23 balls.

“As a top order batter, you're always looking for consistency, but you know you're one knock away from finding form, so it was good to be out there at the end,” Balbirnie said. 

“The pitches were very difficult for this series. This was probably the best surface out of the three games and I knew if I set myself up for the back end, I would do well.”

The Boys in Green, looking sharp with the ball and even more so in the field, lost only one of the five completed matches on their tour, and that - the first T20 - by one-wicket to a last-ball edge past the keeper.

True, Zimbabwe have had injuries to key players like Ryan Burl, who missed yesterday’s game to a concussion protocol, but there is new purpose and drive to Stirling’s side that suggests they would have beaten stronger opponents.

Campher has settled into his new role in ODIs, making two key contributions at No 3, and while Josh Little grabbed the headlines with his stunning 6-36 in the second game, the rest of the quick bowlers and spinner Andy McBrine were also on top form.

Credit for much of that is due to fast bowling coach Ryan Eagleson who has worked tirelessly with his seamers and reaped the rewards. 

The big man from Carrickfergus, who has been involved with Irish cricket since making his playing debut as a 21-year-old, turned 49 yesterday. Not a bad birthday present.