Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie hit half-centuries to guide Ireland’s chase of 217 in the fifth ODI against Afghanistan.
The former did the bulk of the scoring in a half-century opening stand with Irish captain William Porterfield, striking his second ball for four to open his side’s account after his partner had played out a maiden off Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Stirling struck Nabi for six over long-on to put the final touches on an impressive Powerplay for the hosts, and though Porterfield was bowled by a googly from debutant Zahir Khan not long after, Balbirnie’s entrance ensured Ireland stayed on course.
He and Stirling guided their team to 138/1 before the latter, who had struck another huge six moments before, was given out LBW off Rashid Khan. Simi Singh added 13 as Balbirnie passed 50, with Kevin O’Brien taking up the mantle after Singh became the second victim of Zahir’s googly.
Ireland win the final ODI in Dehradun to draw the series 2-2!
Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie guide the chase with half-centuries as Afghanistan’s 216/6 is overhauled with 16 balls remaining. Ireland win by five wickets!#AFGvIRE scorecard ➡️ https://t.co/lFDBqbL6vT pic.twitter.com/KMagKIpR4R
— ICC (@ICC) March 10, 2019
O’Brien and Balbirnie took Ireland past 200, and though there was a min-wobble in sight of the finish line, with Balbirnie and George Dockrell each bowled in the space of eight balls, Stuart Poynter struck his first ball for four to seal a memorable victory.
It was Ireland’s spinners who had combined earlier to set up a victory push, with 39 out of 50 overs in the first innings sent down by twirlers. It was a seamer who struck first however, with Tim Murtagh having Mohammad Shahzad caught at mid-off from the fourth ball of the innings, after the opener had struck the very first ball of the match for six.
From then on, spin held sway. Andy McBrine was parsimonious early on, and got his reward as Javed Ahmadi was bowled through the gate, before Dockrell struck twice in two balls, Rahmat Shah slicing to point the ball after smashing a six for a 42-ball 17, and Samiullah Shinwari nicking behind.
Congratulations to @balbo90 who is named Man of the Series after scoring 215 runs at an average of 71.66. Well deserved! ?#AFGvIRE | #BackingGreen ☘️? pic.twitter.com/pu51aQQWBC
— Cricket Ireland (@Irelandcricket) March 10, 2019
Mohammad Nabi and captain Asghar Afghan helped repair the damage, putting on 76 for the fifth wicket. Nabi and Najibullah Zadran each fell to excellent catches behind the stumps from Poynter, but Afghan and Rashid ensured their side received a strong finish, with 32 runs plundered from the last two overs.
Afghan was forced to retire hurt in the final over, but not before he’d smashed three of the four fours which came from the 49th, and a penultimate-ball helicopter six from Rashid meant Afghanistan finished on a high.
In the end however, the damage had been done, and even if Afghanistan’s 216/6 was more than it seemed the hosts might make at one stage, it was no match for an in-form Irish batting unit.