Chasing 162 to win, Afghanistan got there with 8.1 overs to spare to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series after their bowlers prevented Ireland from making a big score.
Given they were defending a low total, Ireland came out looking for early wickets but by the time Barry McCarthy got Hazratullah Zazai out for 25, Afghanistan already had 43 runs on the board.
Opener Mohammad Shahzad then put together a 47-run partnership for the second wicket with Rahmat Shah before both batsmen were dismissed in quick succession.
To make matters worse, Hashmatullah Shahidi also fell cheaply and with the side having lost 4 wickets already, Asghar Afghan and Gulbadin Naib took things slowly.
The two avoided taking any risks but the shackles were broken by Naib in the 37th over when he smashed McCarthy for three boundaries in four balls.
Naib began to play more freely thereafter and looked set to take Afghanistan home alongside his skipper when he played one straight back to George Dockrell, missing out on a half-century by just four runs.
The match ended in the very same over though as with only 9 runs needed to win, new batsman Najibullah Zadran smashed two sixes in three balls to finish the game in the 42nd over itself.
Earlier after opting to bat first, Ireland got off to a disastrous start as William Porterfield departed in the second over itself, his stumps rattled by Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Mujeeb then proceeded to get rid of both Andrew Balbirnie and James McCollum in the eighth over off consecutive deliveries, both dismissed leg before.
Ireland had been pegged back and were in desperate need of a partnership to salvage the innings. Paul Stirling and O’Brien were the men tasked with the rescue job.
However, Naib got O’Brien to lob a simple catch to Asghar Afghan after the hard-hitting batsman failed to read a slower ball and went through with his shot too early.
Stirling began to run out of partners as both Simi Singh (8) and Stuart Poynter (7) departed without troubling the scorers much but a 76-run partnership with Dockrell gave Ireland a glimmer of hope.
Dockrell’s 37-ball 47 consisted of just 2 fours and a six as he looked to rotate the strike often and stick around long enough to help Ireland get a competitive target on the board.
Yet just when the two seemed poised to make a big impact, Dockrell fell victim to a quicker delivery from Rashid Khan that went on to smash the stumps.
Dockrell’s dismissal triggered a lower-order collapse as the remaining three wickets fell for just 16 runs, with Dawlat Zadran accounting for two of those wickets.
First Published: February 28, 2019, 8:15 PM IST