Ireland 125 for 5 (Balbirnie 46, Tucker 27, Nabi 2-15) Afghanistan 122 for 8 (Shahidi 36, Ibrahim 17, Adair 2-12, Campher 2-13) by five wickets
Afghanistan chose to bat first for the second time in two matches, but their innings never really took off. Both the openers – Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Usman Ghani – were back in the pavilion by the third over. At the end of ten overs they limped to 62 for 4. The second half of the innings was no different and they finished with 122 for 8. Extras, with 19, were the second highest contribution.
Afghanistan needed early wickets to put Ireland under pressure, but Balbirnie made sure that didn’t happen. The target was never going to challenge them, and Afghanistan’s sloppy pitch made their task even easier.
Irish seamers dent Afghanistan in the powerplay
On what Mohammad Nabi described as a dry pitch at the toss, the Irish seamers found movement as well as extra bounce with the new ball to take three wickets in the powerplay.
Adair struck with the first ball of the second over as Gurbaz sliced a full delivery to short third. In the next over, Little got one to chase back to Ghani. The batsman looked for a cut but was tight and ended up hitting the ball on his stumps.
Ibrahim Zadran walked in at number 4 and tried to increase the score. He took on Barry McCarthy, smashing the seamer for three fours in his first over. In the next over, he sent Campher to the deep-third boundary for his fourth four in nine balls. However, a wonderful catch by Andy McBrine cut short his counter-attacking knock. Ibrahim tried to bowl Curtis on the last ball of the powerplay but ultimately failed to go to deep midwicket. McBrine sprinted into the deep and set a full-length dive to take the ball just above the ground, leaving Afghanistan 41 for 3 at the end of six overs.
Afghanistan fails to recover from early blows
Afghanistan needed a partnership to stabilize the innings; instead, they kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Najibullah Zadran started in his usual positive way, reverse-sweeping McBrine for a four, but ended up uppercutting Campher straight to deep point soon after. Nabi didn’t last long either and took out for 9 against Delany.
Hashmatullah Shahidi did occupy one end but struggled for timing in his 42-ball 36. Ironically, when he nailed a reverse sweep, it went straight into the hands of deep point. With Rashid unable to deliver any firepower, Afghanistan could only manage 22 from the last four overs.
Ireland lost Paul Stirling early in their chase and were 8 for 1 after three overs but Balbirnie hit four fours in the next 11 balls to calm the nerves. A few overs later, he swept Mujeeb Ur Rahman in front of square leg for the first six of the match.
Along with Lorcan Tucker, he added 65 off 54 balls for the second wicket; Tucker’s contribution was 19 off 20 balls. Mujeeb finally broke that stand when Balbirnie tried a nice sweep but the ball lobbed off the back of the bat and Gurbaz hit it.
A late wobble but Dockrell sees Ireland home
With 42 required from as many balls, Nabi brought himself over for the first time in the 14th over and made an immediate impact. In the space of four balls he sent back Harry Tector and Tucker. But his second over, which had four leg-byes, went for 13. That left Ireland with 20 needed from 24 balls. Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen gave away just 12 in the next two overs, with Farooqi also dismissing Campher. But George Dockrell kept his cool. On the last ball of the 19th over, bowled by Farooqi, he chipped a full toss over wide long-on to seal the game with a six.
Hemant Brar is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo
#Match #Report #Afghanistan #Ireland #2nd #T20I #ESPNcricinfo