Hazratullah Zazai smashed the ball to every corner of the ground, and even out of the stadium, as Afghanistan racked up a world record T20 score of 278-3 in a crushing demolition of Ireland on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Zazai’s unbeaten 162 included 16 sixes and 11 fours, delighting Afghan fans in the Indian city of Dehradun.
His haul of sixes was another record, as was his stand of 236 with fellow opener Usman Ghani and the 22 sixes scored in all by Afganistan’s players.
Ireland captain Paul Stirling also hit a six off the first ball of his side’s innings as they chased a mammoth 13.95 runs an over to keep up.
But they ended on 194-6 and Afghanistan won by 84 runs to wrap up the three match series with a game to spare.
“It was a pretty disappointing night,” said Stirling. “We need to regroup now.”
The night of cricket fireworks belonged to Afghanistan — who overtook Australia’s 260-3 against Sri Lanka in 2016 — and Zazai, who plundered his giant innings off just 62 balls.
“I just wanted to play my natural game and today was my day,” he said. “The wicket was good for batting.”
– Sixes galore –
After managing just seven runs from their first two overs, Zazai and Ghani flailed the Irish bowlers, who from then barely managed an over without conceding a six.
Zazai made his century off just 42 balls — the second quickest in T20 internationals — completed with the ninth six of his innings. Four of the sixes came off Kevin O’Brien in the 17th over which reaped 28 runs in all.
One giant hit off Shane Gelkate went over the stands and out of the ground.
Zazai’s stocks have risen dramatically despite missing a place in the Indian Premier League this season were dashed.
In October, he became only the third batsman to hit six sixes in a T20 over for his Afghanistan Premier League side Kabul Zwanan.
He equalled the record for the fastest T20 half century in 12 balls in the same match.
Stirling hardly knew who to throw into the breach as a bowler.
Boyd Rankin finally claimed a wicket for the Irish when Ghani — who made 73 off 43 balls — played a careless shot over long-on that Joshua Little caught diving as he ran in from the boundary.
While Stirling and Kevin O’Brien were no slouches, they never kept up with the mountainous run rate, which had risen to 17 by the 10th over.
Afghanistan’s star bowler Rashid Khan came on for the 11th over and was furious when captain Asghar Afghan spilled a relatively simple catch off his first ball to give O’Brien a chance with Ireland on 109.
O’Brien was bowled in the next over by Fareed Ahmad for a 37 which included two sixes.
Rashid bowled Andy Balbirnie in the following over for two and Stirling started to run out of reliable partners.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman claimed Stirling — who as a consolation made Ireland’s top T20 score of 91 off 50 balls — when he was caught by replacement Najeeb Tarakai on the boundary.
The final match of the series is on Sunday. The two play five one-day internationals from February 28 and a one-off Test in March.
AFGHANISTAN: Hazratullah Zazai, Usman Ghani, Asghar Afghan (capt), Samiullah Shenwari, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Shafiqullah Shafiq (wk), Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fareed Malik
IRELAND: Paul Stirling (capt), Kevin O Brien, Andrew Balbirnie, Shane Getkate, Simi Singh, Stuart Poynter (wk), George Dockrell, Joshua Little, Boyd Rankin, Peter Chase, Lorcan Tucker