The all-rounder Mohammad Nabi’s brilliant display earned Afghanistan a five-wicket win over Ireland to open their three-match T20 series in Dehradun, India, on Thursday.
Nabi took 2-16 with his off-spin bowling and restricted Ireland to 6-132 before scoring an unbeaten 49 off 40 balls to carry Afghanistan to 5-136 in 19.2 overs on Thursday.
Afghanistan’s chase began badly, the top order crumbling to 5-50 inside the first eight overs against seamers. But Nabi and Najibullah Zadran came to the rescue with an unbeaten 86-run stand.
Earlier, Ireland’s top order needed bailing out with George Dockrell and Stuart Poynter sharing 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 6-65 in the 12th over after captain Paul Stirling won the toss and opted to bat.
Leg-spinner Rashid struck twice in his first over, and Nabi had Stirling caught in the deep while taking 2-16 from four overs.
Boyd Rankin (2-39) took the wickets of Hazratullah Zazai (11) and Karim Jannat (0) in the same over of the Afghan reply while captain Asghar Afghan gave a simple catch at point while attempting an ambitious drive against the swing of Peter Chase.
And it took the experienced Nabi and Zadran, who have played 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.
Afghanistan have a winning record in Dehradun, their adopted home. They were impressive against Bangladesh in the T20I series last year, which they swept 3-0. Their positive record against Ireland – nine wins in 12 T20Is – will also give them confidence.
Afghanistan’s world-class spin bowling arsenal, led by Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Zadran, will get assistance from the surface. The trio picked up 14 wickets between them in Dehradun in the series against Bangladesh.
In the absence of the rested Mohammad Shahzad, Hazratullah Zazai will be the main aggressor in the batting unit. The hosts will also rely on skipper Asghar Afghan’s experience with the willow.