Electing to bat first, it was four overs before Ireland lost the wicket of Kevin O' Brien for 5 off Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Andrew Balbirnie (5) followed in the very next over, trapped LBW by Karim Janat to leave Ireland at 33/2 in just the sixth over.
Captain and opener Paul Stirling played the part of holding up fort for Ireland through the first part of the innings, though his rate of scoring might not have been suited to the format. In the seventh over, he too was dismissed for the score of a 25-ball 23, caught by Najibullah off the bowling of Nabi.
The problem for Ireland was the inability to string any long partnerships. At number 5, Simi Singh had the chance to play a decisive knock, but he too perished for 9 though the delivery by Nabi that led to his stumping by Shafiqullah was a clever one.
From 52/4, it was just a matter of time before the score read 65/6, Stuart Thompson and Shane Getkate mere visitors at the crease.
But from that point on, it was the George Dockrell and Stuart Poynter show. The duo carried their bats for the rest of the innings, the former scoring 34 and the latter remaining unbeaten on 31, to ensure that Ireland reached a respectable total of 132/6.
In reply, Afghanistan started off in formidable fashion. The duo of Hazratullah Zazai and captain Asghar Afghan went hammer and tongs from the first ball. Boyd Rankin was their target in the first over, but just as they sought to emulate the same in the second over bowled by Peter Chase, the Irishman got the better of the captain Afghan who was then dismissed for 5.
Quite the opposite of the Irish innings, Afghanistan showed their intent from the first ball and that did not stop despite the fall of the wicket. Samiullah Shenwari was the next batsman to set his sights on the Irish bowlers, and he and Zazai chugged along till Boyd Rankin got the wicket of Zazai for 11 runs in the fourth over.
In the same over, Rankin struck again to leave Afghanistan reeling at 30/3, Janat dismissed for a duck.
It looked like Ireland had the match done and dusted when Afghanistan, making the same mistakes Ireland did in their innings, gave their wickets away cheaply with Samiullah Shenwari and Sharafuddin Ashraf both dismissed in quick succession. The scoreboard read 50 for five in just the eighth over of the innings.
However, it was from that point on that the pair of Nabi and Zadran started an Afghanistan comeback. From the dire situation Afghanistan were in, the duo played some intelligent yet expansive cricket, sending the Irish fielders on a leather hunt.
Rankin, who had otherwise had a great game till the point Nabi and Zadran started their assault ended with figures of 4-0-39-2. Peter Chase ended with an economy rate of 8.10 and Joshua Little of 7. Nabi’s unbeaten knock of 49 off 40 balls included five fours and one six while Zadran’s quick-fire 40* off 36 balls was laced with three fours and one six.
They made sure that Afghanistan chased the target down with four balls to spare.
AfghanistanAfghanistan vs Ireland 2019George DockrellirelandMohammad NabiNajibullah ZadranStuart Poynter
First Published: February 21, 2019, 10:12 PM IST