DEHRADUN, India: Mohammad Nabi’s brilliant all-round display earned Afghanistan a five-wicket win over Ireland to open their three-match Twenty20 series on Thursday.
Nabi took 2-16 with his offspin bowling and restricted Ireland to 132-6. Then he scored an unbeaten 49 off 40 balls to carry Afghanistan to 136-5 in 19.2 overs.
Afghanistan’s chase began badly, the top order crumbling to 50-5 inside the first eight overs against seamers. Nabi and Najibullah Zadran, 40 not out, came to the rescue with an unbeaten 86-run stand.
Ireland last defeated Afghanistan in 2013 in the final of a T20 World Cup qualifier, and has lost eight straight T20s since.
Earlier, Ireland’s top order also needed bailing out as George Dockrell, 34 not out, and Stuart Poynter, 31 not out, shared a 67-run partnership.
Top-ranked T20 bowler Rashid Khan, 2-21, and Mujeeb Ur Rehman, 1-20, combined well with Nabi as Ireland slipped to 65-6 in the 12th over after captain Paul Stirling won the toss and opted to bat.
Legspinner Rashid struck twice in his first over, and Nabi had Stirling caught in the deep while taking 2-16 from four overs.
Dockrell and Poynter prevented Ireland from rolling over.
Poynter, who hit a dramatic last-ball six in Ireland’s win against the Netherlands in the quadrangular tournament at Oman last week, gave Ireland total respectability when he lofted left-arm fast bowler Fareed Ahmad for a six off the last ball of the innings.
In reply, the Afghan top order threw away its wickets while going for extravagant big hits.
Boyd Rankin (2-39) took the wickets of Hazratullah Zazai (11) and Karim Janat (0) in one over, while captain Asghar Afghan gave a simple catch at point while attempting an ambitious drive against the swing of Peter Chase.
It took the experienced Nabi and Zadran, who have 114 T20s between them, to bat solidly with Nabi hitting the winning boundary off Chase.
The second and third matches will be at the same venue over the weekend.