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Balbirnie special helps Ireland level series

07 Mar 2019 CricBuzz

A career-best performance from Andrew Balbirnie (145 not out off 136 balls) helped Ireland get off the mark and draw level in the five-match series against Afghanistan in the third ODI at the Rajiv Gandhi International cricket stadium on Tuesday (March 3).

Chasing a stiff target of 257, Ireland were down and out at 73/4 during the 16th over, but a magnificent 143-run partnership between number three batsman Andrew Balbirnie and all-rounder George Dockrell totally tilted the momentum in the visitors' favour. The duo exhibited great composure at the crease and negotiated all the tricks thrown at them to engineer a much-needed, series-reviving stand for their team. Dockrell played the perfect second fiddle while Balbirnie kept the scorecard ticking with occasional boundaries to keep the required rate under control.

Afghanistan failed to apply any pressure after the vital opening spell from Dawlat Zadran who removed Paul Stirling and Simi Singh in the space of three deliveries. Towards the end of the chase, Ireland did offer a few chances but the hosts crumbled under pressure and let the game slip away with some ordinary bowling and fielding. That said, Balbirnie stayed unfazed throughout his innings and seemed really hungry to help his side tick their first win on this tour.

Earlier, a special innings from the highly-rated Najibullah Zadran helped Afghanistan recover from a perilous situation - 74/5 at one stage - to post a fighting total on the board. Opting to bat, Afghanistan lost two of their top three batsmen - Mohammad Shahzad and Rahmat Shah - to some accurate bowling from Tim Murtagh and Andy McBrine; both the opening bowlers attacked the stumps more often and were rewarded with an lbw dismissal each.

The in-form batsman Hazratullah Zazai was in good nick from the start and just as he looked to rebuild some momentum with skipper Asghar Afghan, a brainfade moment from the former opened doors for yet another Ireland comeback. From 53/3, Afghanistan were soon reduced to 74/5 in the span of five overs.

The hosts looked in all sorts of trouble at the end of 20th over with the score reading 77/5, but a 117-run association between Asghar Afghan and Najibullah Zadran revived Afghanistan's innings and set the platform for a competitive total on the board.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 256 for 8 in 50 overs (Asghar Afghan 75, Najibullah Zadran 104*; Boyd Rankin 2-56) lost to Ireland 260 for 6 in 49 overs (Andrew Balbirnie 145*, George Dockrell 54; Dawlat Zadran 2-52) by 4 wickets

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Original Link: https://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/106995/andrew-balbirnie-special-helps-ireland-level-series-against-afganistan

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