Ireland power past Afghanistan
A formidable Ireland side hit the fourth highest total in Twenty20 history, as they thumped Afghanistan in the World T20 qualifier final last weekend in Abu Dhabi.
The two sides were meeting in the final for third time in a row, having both previously picked up a solitary win each, yet it was the Irish side who smashed a remarkable 225 runs to clinch the qualifier title.
Both teams had already secured their place in the first round of next year's finals in Bangladesh yet there was no sign of Ireland easing off as they ran amok with the bat.
Paul Stirling opened after the victors elected to bat first and continued his impressive form against Afghanistan, scoring 76 off just 43 balls. His tally, which included four sixes and eight fours, was almost as impressive as his previous outing against the ‘new enemy’ when he mustered up a score of 79 runs from just 38 deliveries.
Trent Johnston, batting at fourth, was also in inspired form as he smashed 62 runs from 32 balls before being expertly dismissed by Shapoor Zadran.
Finishing on 225-7, the current holders of the qualifier’s championship looked likely to retain the title with only a record breaking innings from Afghanistan standing in the way of victory.
Unfortunately for the challengers, the chase didn’t even last the twenty overs as big hitting proved costly and allowed Ireland to bowl their opponents all out for 157.
Afghanistan did make a blistering start to their innings, clubbing 14 runs off the first three balls and were on target for victory after three overs, registering a score of 36 without loss.
Ireland spinner, George Dockrell stepped up to remove the destructive Mohammad Shazad for 38, from just 18 balls, yet at the end of the sixth over, Afghanistan still looked in contention for victory amassing a score of 76 for two.
Ultimately, the collapse began in the seventh over when Mohammad Nabi and Karim Sadiq were both dismissed by Alex Cusack. The challenge was made all the more difficult when top scorer, Gulbadin Naib was bowled by Trent Johnston, and the team was finally bowled out in the penultimate over.
Man of the match Johnston took three for 34 to cap off a memorable all-round display from the retiring 39-year-old.