Zazai’s blistering knock – which included 11 fours and 16 sixes – meant Afghanistan scored 278/3 in the first innings, a world record total in the game’s shortest format that eventually saw them win the match by 84 runs.
Zazai put together a 236-run opening stand with Usman Ghani – which also set a record for the highest partnership for any wicket in T20 history – and gave a glimpse of what was to come in the third over of the first innings when he hit Peter Chase for two fours and a six.
Zazai then began to find the boundary with alarming regularity, which in turn gave his partner the confidence to go after the bowlers as well.
The two scored 64 runs in the powerplay and Zazai brought up his half-century in the 8th over itself, having already hit 5 fours and as many sixes.
The young opener looked to have thrown his wicket away in the 10th over off Shane Getkate but was handed a reprieve by George Dockrell, who dropped a sitter at deep point.
It was a mistake that Zazai ensured Ireland paid dearly for.
He ended the 10th over with a six and a four and then continued to plunder the bowling attack at will, with no bowler seeming to have any idea on how to contain the explosive southpaw.
He eventually brought up his maiden T20I century with a six, taking just 42 balls to get there but he wasn’t done yet.
Zazai and Ghani kept playing their shots until the latter was dismissed in the 18th over.
Ghani’s dismissal saw a bit of a wobble creep into the end of Afghanistan’s innings as they lost another two wickets in quick succession, but Zazai stayed around till the end and even scored a boundary on the final ball of the innings.
Ireland did not go down without a fight, however, as they came out all guns blazing with openers Paul Stirling and Kevin O Brien looking to seize the initiative early in the second innings.
Striling started the innings with a six and the two batsmen kept the scoreboard racing along as the match progressed.
They got 109 runs in the first 10 overs, which while wasn’t at par with the asking rate, did at least keep them in the hunt.
However once Fareed Malik got rid of O Brien and Rashid Khan dismissed Andy Balbirnie, Ireland collapsed as the pressure of the run-rate got to them.
Stirling departed for 91 in the 13th over courtesy of Mujeeb ur Rehman, who got the Irish skipper to hole out to the substitute fielder at deep square leg.
Rashid then sent both Lorcan Tucker and Dockrell back to the dugout in the 16th over, the former giving a simple catch to Mohammad Nabi and the latter getting his stumps uprooted thanks to a wrong one.
The young leg-spinner then trapped Getkate plumb with a faster googly, which spelled the end of what was always going to be an unlikely chase after Zazai had mercilessly taken apart their bowling attack.
The final T20I will be played at the same venue on Sunday (February 24).
First Published: February 23, 2019, 8:48 PM IST