Afghanistan level T20I series to set up final match decider in Stormont

Najibullah Zadran again torments Ireland as George Dockrell continues good form in a losing effort

Afghanistan (132-6, 11 overs) (Najibullah Zadran 50, Rashid Khan 31; Gareth Delany 3-33) beat Ireland (110 all out, 11 overs) (George Dockrell 41 not out; Fareed Ahmad 3-14) by 27 runs. Scorecard here.

Series tied. 2-2, one game to go with the decider coming on Wednesday after Afghanistan levelled proceedings thanks to a 27-run victory at Stormont. In a rain-shortened 11 over game, Najibullah Zadran once again flayed the Irish attack to all parts, striking 50 off 24 balls to help his side post an impressive 132-6 after being put in at the toss.

In response, George Dockrell once again showed off his ridiculous form this summer, ending unbeaten on 41 off 27 but ultimately too many lean overs in the middle cost Ireland as they were bowled out on the final delivery when Josh Little was caught short of his ground.

Akin to Friday’s win for Afghanistan, the final overs saw Dockrell turning down singles batting when batting with the tail, fighting a losing battle when left in a position of needing virtually a boundary per delivery - 33 was the target off the final over. He couldn’t do the near impossible, but still ended up with a strike-rate of 152. He has now scored 134 runs off 88 balls without being dismissed across the four games of this series.

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Afghanistan started their innings at a rapid pace, Rahmanullah Gurbaz finding boundaries through point, fine leg and mid wicket. He took a liking to both Josh Little and Mark Adair as the visitors reached 28-0 off just two overs before Barry McCarthy cramped Gurbaz with a short ball, Adair taking the catch at short fine.

From there Ireland clawed things back, Gareth Delany answering new spin coach Nathan Hauritz’s calls for more wickets from the spinners with two in his first two deliveries, both caught in the deep albeit the first was via a rank long hop.

Afghanistan responded through Zadran and Rashid Khan, both players punishing short balls and overpitched deliveries to put on 50 for the sixth wicket, albeit both were put down at various stages; three chances were tricky as Little and Dockrell spilled diving efforts, one was simply a high ball that wasn’t seen by Harry Tector in the deep.

Ireland got off to a fast start in reply thanks to Paul Stirling flaying deliveries through the off side and Andrew Balbrinie having success over long off and fine leg, but wickets started to tumble as Azmatullah Omarzai and Fareed Ahmad accounted for the top three.

Both Harry Tector and Gareth Delany departed to umpire decisions they clearly didn’t agree with - the former caught behind when he thought he missed it, the latter an LBW shout that may have been sliding down, Rashid’s first wicket of the series.

That left Dockrell to do his now customary damage at the end, but unlike Afghanistan who had the fireworks of both Rashid and Najibullah at the end of their innings, no one was able to partner with Ireland’s finisher to see the side over the line.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist