Ireland captain Gary Wilson’s praise despite defeat to Afghanistan

Ireland captain Gary Wilson. Pic by INPHO.
Ireland captain Gary Wilson. Pic by INPHO.

Hazratullah Zazai was too hot handle as Afghanistan won the opening match of the Gulbahar Construction T20I series by 16 runs at Bready.

Zazai hit a quickfire 74 off 33 balls – including eight fours and six sixes – as he helped Afghanistan lay a solid foundation.

He dominated the early overs with some huge hitting, scoring 74 of Afghanistan’s first 87 runs in the innings.

Ireland were delighted to get his wicket as spinner Simi Singh had him caught behind thanks to a sharp Gary Wilson catch.

The wicket of Zazai didn’t seem to hinder the tourists as they kept their foot on the gas. Mohammad Shahzad and Azghar Afghan put on 32 runs together before the former was run out by a direct hit from Singh.

Afghan continued to score and was supported by Najibullah Zadran as the pair added a further 32 for the third wicket.

Towards the death, Ireland bowled tidily, putting a squeeze on the Afghanistan run rate.

Josh Little picked up the wickets of both Afghan and Zadran as they lost three for two runs, before losing their sixth and seventh wicket on 159.

Afghanistan closed their innings on 160 for seven with Usman Ghani (1) and Aftab Alam (1) the not out batsmen.

The visitors scored 116 runs in their opening 10 overs and lost six wickets for 50 runs in the remaining eight overs.

The pick of the Irish bowlers was Little who claimed four for 20 during his four over spell.

Ireland never got going with the bat as they lost wickets at regular intervals.

They first lost Stuart Thompson for five as Mujeeb Ur Rahman cleaned him up to leave them 12 for one.

William Porterfield joined Paul Stirling and hit eight runs on his way to becoming the first Irishman to score 2000 T20 runs. He was then caught by Alam off the bowling of Ur Rahman.

At 31 for two, Kevin O’Brien joined Stirling and a partnership was required. A partnership wasn’t to be as Stirling was caught at deep square-leg by Alam - following a sublime one-handed catch off the bowling of Fareeb Ahmad.

O’Brien was the next man to fall as he gave Mohammad Nabi his first wicket – Zazai this time with the catch.

The number one T20 bowler in the world, Rashid Khan, then got his first wicket as he had Andrew Balbirnie trapped in front for eight as the Leinster man attempted a sweep.

At 88 for five, Ireland Captain, Wilson was holding the innings together before Ghani caught the Holywood man off the bowling of Alam.

Ireland then lost their last three wickets for eight runs as Khan picked up the wickets of Kane and Little and finished with figures of three for 35.

Ireland only managed 144 for nine, falling 16 runs short.

Captain Gary Wilson remained positive despite the defeat and was pleased with the way his side played.

The 32-year-old paid compliment to his bowlers. Wilson said: “I thought the boys [bowlers] showed great character after the start had.

“The good thing is that we should be sitting in that changing room thinking we can win the series 2-1 and that’s not always the case.

“We should be sitting in there looking at this game and saying that we were a little off today and we can come back and be better on Wednesday.”