Afghanistan fight back in 3rd game to keep T20I series alive against Ireland
Ireland lead the five-match series 2-1 currently.
Afghanistan sealed a 22-run win in the third T20I of the ITW Ireland v Afghanistan T20I Series to keep their hopes of a series win alive – despite late batting heroics by the Irish lower order. The touring side’s top four batters delivered to put up a strong total of 189-5, and Ireland were quickly reduced to 36-4 in their run chase.
The hosts looked down and out at 85-7 in the 13th over, but George Dockrell (58* off 37) and debutant Fionn Hand (36 off 18) kept Ireland’s hopes alive with a stunning eighth-wicket partnership worth 74 – just six runs short of a world-record 8th wicket stand in T20I cricket. In the end, though, Afghanistan held on to celebrate their first win of the series.
Afghanistan were quick to put aside a difficult performance with the bat in the second T20I – 11 runs from Mark Adair’s opening over set the base for a 90-run opening partnership between Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai. Gurbaz was the more expansive presence at the top of the order, hitting eight fours and a six on his way to a 31-ball half-century, the landmark reached from the final ball of the 10th over.
Ireland were finally able to celebrate in the 12th over, when Gurbaz slashed hard at Josh Little – the ball met the edge of the bat, ballooning up high and eventually into the safe hands of Adair at short third man.
A couple of overs later Hand was able to celebrate his first international wicket, with Zazai finding Paul Stirling at short third, who took a fine tumbling catch low to his right.
But the loss of the openers didn’t hinder Afghanistan, with Ibrahim Zadran stepping up in an enterprising cameo – he smashed a quickfire 36 before an attempted lap to the leg-side saw him guide a Little delivery to the keeper.
But more destruction was to come: Najibullah went on a six-hitting spree in the final two overs as he smashed 42 off just 18 deliveries. There were no fours hit from the left-hander – his desire for the aerial route resulted in five sixes.
Set a steep target of 190, Ireland were in trouble quickly in their chase, losing Stirling for a duck in the first over – the right-hander couldn’t take advantage of a full toss, hitting Fazalhaq Farooqi to Usman Ghani at cover.
A couple of overs later Farooqi was celebrating the wicket of the other Irish opener – Balbirnie also fell victim to a full toss, toe-ending a wide delivery to backward point to depart for 1.
The loss of Harry Tector – the right-hander feathered behind a wide Naveen-ul-Haq delivery to the keeper for 3 – left Ireland in serious trouble on 22-3 in the fourth over.
Curtis Campher picked up a couple of boundaries but he too fell to Naveen, for 8, and while Tucker continued his fine form at No.3 to advance to 31, an excellent catch by Naveen at deep midwicket ended the gloveman’s innings to leave Ireland 58-5 in the ninth over.
Wickets continued to tumble, but Ireland still had the power of Dockrell and Hand at the crease. Together the pair turned the tide, launching some huge hits to bring Ireland back into the game.
Dockrell went to a half-century off just 28 balls and Hand hit four fours and two sixes to get himself to 36 off 17, leaving 31 required from nine deliveries. But Naveen soon celebrated his third wicket of the day, with Hand scooping his delivery to a running Zazai at short fine leg.
Graham Hume – also on T20I debut – was run out at the end of the penultimate over, and while Dockrell finished on a new career-best in the format, Afghanistan were the side celebrating at the close.
Ireland v Afghanistan, 3rd T20I, Stormont, 12 August 2022
Afghanistan 189-5 (20 overs; R Gurbaz 53, N Zadran 42; J Little 2-29)
Ireland 167-9 (20 overs; G Dockrell 58*, F Hand 36; F Farooqi 2-11)