Hazratullah Zazai’s 82 runs helped Afghanistan take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the Gulbahar T20I series as they beat Ireland by 81 runs at Bready.
After the game, Boyd Rankin talked about how nice it was to play in front of a home crowd.
“It was really special,” he said. “I was keen to play and it’s nice to get the opportunity to play here. it was good to get a crowd.”
Zazai hit six fours and seven sixes in his 54-ball knock. This was Zazai’s second half-century of the series following on from his 74 on Monday.
Following the early departures of Mohammad Shahzad (1) and Samiullah Shenwari (1), Ireland seemed in control as they restricted Afghanistan to 42 for two in the powerplay.
However, the visitors had other ideas as Zazai and Asghar Afghan put on 116 runs together for the third wicket. The alliance was eventually broken as Zazai gave George Dockrell his first wicket of the afternoon, slapping a juicy full toss to Simi Singh at cow corner.
With four overs to go, the tourists were 124 for three and went at nine runs an over until the end.
That was soon to be 124 for four as Afghan (37) skied an attempted pull off Josh Little to George Dockrell at square-leg.
The next over produced another wicket as Shafiqullah Shafaq offered Peter Chase a straightforward caught and bowled opportunity. Chase comfortably pouched the catch and Shafaq walked off for two.
Rankin was in fine form on his home ground. He picked up his second and third wicket in final over. Firstly, he removed Nabi with Stuart Thompson taking the catch on the boundary, and then a few balls later he dismissed Rashid Khan for a second ball duck.
Eleven runs came off the first five balls of the last over before Chase claimed the wicket of Aftab Alam. Alam hit the ball over Andrew Balbirnie, but Balbirnie scrambled backwards to take the catch.
Chase returned the best figures for Ireland, finishing with figures of three for 35 off his four overs.
Needing 161 runs to win, Ireland needed valuable contributions from their batting line-up. Only two players (William Porterfield with 33 and Gary Wilson with 22) reached double figures as their side fell short of victory.
Leg-spinner Khan proved why he was the number one bowler in T20 cricket. The 19-year-old bamboozled batsmen and took four for 17 in three overs.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman ended up with three wickets for 17. Alam, Ahmad and Nabi all picked up one each.
Ireland will be looking to avoid the whitewash on Friday at Bready when they take on Afghanistan in the final match of the series.