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Cricket news - Allround Nabi sinks Irish hearts

Nabi picked up two wickets and then scored unbeaten 49 to lead Afghanistan to a win.

Veteran Mohammad Nabi starred with both bat and ball as Afghanistan made a winning start to the series against Ireland in Dehradun. In a topsy-turvy encounter at their adopted home, Afghanistan came out on top despite stuttering at 50/5 in the chase of 133 and eventually sealed a five-wicket win.

Ireland made a horrible start to the tour after losing wickets early in the game. Stand-in-skipper Paul Stirling opted to bat first after winning the toss but the openers struggled in the powerplay against Mujeeb ur Rahman. Stirling got things going with a couple of boundaries against Farid Malik but the pressure at the other end eventually got to Kevin O'Brien who mis-hit one to long on. In the very next over, Afghanistan struck against when Karim Janat trapped Andy Balbirnie leg-before-wicket with a full and straight delivery.

Losing two wickets in the powerplay, the onus was on the skipper to revive the innings but Nabi made it three wickets in three overs when Stirling miscued a slog sweep to fall for a 25-ball 23. Simi Singh provided some excitement when he slammed his third ball for a six but Nabi was clever enough to bowl one wide of the batsman to have him stumped. At the halfway mark, Ireland had made only 60, losing four wickets in the process. From there on, 60 for 4 became 66 for 6 when Rashid Khan picked two wickets in his first over and that caused real panic in the camp with a total below 100 looking like the likeliest outcome.

But George Dockrell and wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter gave their side a fighting chance by putting up a gutsy effort that saw them bat through, adding 67 runs in the process that dragged Ireland to 132. There was a real threat of Afghanistan finishing things very early when they smashed 16 in the first over of the chase. But five overs later by the end of the powerplay, the hosts had lost four wickets with Boyd Rankin, Peter Chase and Joshua Little making incisions.

Ireland struck again when Shane Getkate bowled a leg-cutter to deceive Sharafuddin Ashraf in the eighth over that saw Afghanistan slip to 50 for 5. But just when Ireland were expected to complete formalities and register a memorable win, Nabi came to the rescue. He found an able ally in the form of Najibullah Zadran and the duo staged a remarkable recovery pretty similar to the one Ireland staged at the back end of their innings.

The duo didn't panic even though the run rate hadn't crossed six for the first 14 overs of the chase. In the final five overs, Afghanistan needed 41 runs and the batsmen targetted Joshua Little to lift the pressure. While Nabi fetched a four, Zadran hammered Little for a four and a six. From thereon, with momentum on their side, the duo got the job done in the final over.

Brief scores: Ireland 132/6 in 20 overs (George Dockrell 34*, Stuart Poynter 31*; Mohammad Nabi 2-16, Rashid Khan 2-21) lost to Afghanistan 136/5 in 19.2 overs (Mohammad Nabi 49*, Najibullah Zadran 40*; Boyd Rankin 2-39) by 5 wickets

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