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Ireland huff and puff, and still fall 21 short

08 Mar 2020 CricBuzz

There's a reason why Afghanistan have the wood over Ireland so blatantly in this format, with a head-to-head count that's now gone up to 14-3. And that reason is Rashid Khan. You can't take him on, you can't play him out, and even when he takes just the one wicket, he makes sure it's one that kills the game.

So how one-sided was it actually?

It clearly wasn't meant to be straightforward, especially on this surface that was slowing down with every passing delivery. Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien, although positive and effective against Mujeeb Ur Rahman, fell to rather unnecessary shots to him after the momentum took them a little too far.

Apart from that brief moment when skipper Andrew Balbirnie and Harry Tector flirted with hopes of an Irish revival in the chase with the fourth wicket partnership, there was never a moment when Afghanistan didn't look in control. And it was this brief flirtatious moment that Rashid killed, with a top-spinner that Balbirnie didn't read to top-edge a sweep to deep square leg. The rest of the batsmen tried, got decent starts, but with the asking rate getting steeper and Rashid proving to be a little too tough to read, just couldn't match up, falling comprehensively short.

Foot on the gas, all through

It was a tricky decision for Afghanistan to make at the toss on a pitch that was under covers for a couple of days but still looked dry. But their openers justified the call to bat first, staying steady and laying out the platform with a 57-run stand at just over a run-a-ball. And it was just the perfect launching pad.

Asghar Afghan was the first to explode. He timed it rather smoothly, getting his eye in with nine runs off the first twelve balls he faced, and then picked Boyd Rankin to go after. It was a pitch where the ball wasn't quite coming on nicely, and Rankin's pace was just what he needed. It started with two fours and a six off consecutive deliveries in the fourteenth over, before taking it up a notch by milking Craig Young for 25 runs.

Mohammad Nabi joined in as well, seamly switching gears from playing second fiddle to a lead role, in a 17-ball 27. But even when both of them fell towards the end of the innings and Ireland seemed to have things in control - having squeezed in two overs for just eight runs in the eighteenth and the nineteenth - Gulbudin Naib (13 off 4) and Najibullah Zadran (16 off 9) made sure the last blitz was theirs, smashing poor Joshua Little's left-arm-mediums for 26 off the final over.

As skewed as things get

This win, taking the series scoreline to 2-0, marks yet another series win for Afghanistan over the Irish. Just the fact that Ireland haven't won a single game in this rivalry since 2013 is a bad enough reflection.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 184/4 in 20 overs (Asghar Afghan 49, Rahmanullah Gurbaz 35; Craig Young 1-27) beat Ireland 163/6 in 20 overs (Andrew Balbirnie 46, Harry Tector 37; Mujeeb Ur Rahman 3-38) by 21 runs


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