Stunning Irish collapse gifts Afghanistan record 10th straight T20I victory
A rain delay followed by a stunning Irish collapse played out in front of a nearly empty stadium as Afghanistan recorded their tenth consecutive T20 International victory. While the crowd at the Greater Noida Sports Complex Stadium, Afghanistan's provisional home ground, may have been absent, the action was worthy of a packed stadium, as Afghanistan took an unassailable 2-0 lead in their three-match series.
Afghanistan's ten consecutive T20 victories are the most by any country, ahead of both England and Ireland who have managed streaks of eight.
"Very important that we won the series. When the rain came, we could have lost the match, but it stopped and thankfully we were able to pull it off. Congratulations to Tarakai for his 90," said Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai, "On this ground 111 in 11 overs was a very easy total. Rashid and the boys defended it very, very well".
The Afghanis have poster boy 18-year-old Rashid Khan to thank. He took five wickets for three runs in just two overs, including a maiden where he took three wickets. This is the joint fourth-best bowling figures in all T20Is, and by far the best for the Afghanis and other associate nation players.
Despite this, the Man of the Match award was shared between batsman Najeeb Tarakai and Khan. Khan, now an Indian Premier League player, had this to say during the post-match presentation: "Match was in their hands before the rain. It was difficult to come back, but the coach and skipper told me that we had to do it and I had the confidence that I could do it as well. In the first over it was difficult to grip the ball, but later on I got used to it".
All of this seemed improbable as Ireland were at 65 for 2 in just 6.1 overs, chasing a target of 185 before the rain came pouring down. The Irish were 12 runs ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis System par score at that point. More so, no one thought the match would resume as half the outfield wasn't covered and the drainage system wasn't up to par in Greater Noida.
Once the match resumed, Ireland, needed only 49 runs off 29 balls, a task they probably thought was easy, but Khan had other ideas. They lost seven wickets in 4.5 overs to hand Afghanistan a remarkable victory.
Earlier on, Afghanistan had recovered from 69 for 4 in 9.1 overs to post a healthy total of 184 for 8. The recovery was in large part due to Najeeb Tarakai's 90 runs off just 58 balls that came at a strike rate of 155.17 and included seven boundaries and five sixes.
Ireland was defeated in the first T20 International on 8 March as the total of 165 was easily chased own by the Blue Tigers with 12 balls to spare.
Afghanistan has one more match in the series and can extend their unbeaten streak to 11 matches. After that, the two teams move on to a best-of-five One-Day International series. The first of those ODIs will be played on 15 March. Finally, there will be a one-off four-day Test to conclude the series.