Rampant Ireland retain World T20 Qualifier title
Ireland 225 for 7 (Stirling 76, Johnston 62, Hotak 3-39) beat Afghanistan 157 (Naib 43, Johnston 3-34) by 68 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Ireland successfully defended their World Twenty20 Qualifiers title with a comprehensive 68-run win over Afghanistan in the final in Abu Dhabi, thanks largely to blitzed fifties from Paul Stirling and Trent Johnston - in his final Twenty20 match - that propelled them to a mammoth 225.
Ireland, who have been in excellent form throughout the tournament, winning six of their seven group matches before thumping UAE in the semi-finals, were rampant from the get go. Electing to bat, Ireland began strongly as Stirling pulled Shapoor Zadran for four off the fourth ball of the innings and upper-cut the next delivery for six over third man.
Stirling received ample support at the other end from his captain William Porterfield, who also picked out the boundaries at regular intervals as the pair raced to 68 inside six overs. Ireland suffered their first casualty when Porterfield, having just hit Hamza Hotak through the covers for four, missed a cut and was bowled for a 14-ball 27.
That didn't slow Ireland down in the least though, as new batsman Kevin O'Brien pierced the offside with his first two deliveries for four, and lofted the third for six over the bowler's head. O'Brien departed for 20, but his 12-ball cameo had already taken Ireland over the 100-run mark in 8.3 overs.
Afghanistan would have hoped for a reprieve following the wicket, but Johnston, coming in at No. 4, continued the carnage, as he and Stirling slammed 64 off 32 deliveries. Stirling finally fell for 76 - caught by Mohammad Nabi off Hotak in the 15th over - having hit eight fours and four sixes, but Johnston added 44 more runs with Gary Wilson and John Mooney at a manic pace. Johnston was eventually bowled by Zadran for 62, but it was too little too late for Afghanistan, as Ireland had already amassed well over 200.
Set a daunting 226 to win - a record, if they achieved it - Afghanistan began spiritedly, as Mohammad Shahzad took 14 runs of Max Sorensen's first three balls. At the other end Nawroz Mangal hit 12 off Tim Murtagh's first 4, as he and Shahzad added 36 in 3.2 overs before Mangal was bowled by George Dockrell - like Afghanistan, Ireland too resorted to spin early on - for 14.
Afghanistan tried to maintain the high required-rate and did so for a while, but their progress was halted by wickets at regular intervals from Dockrell and Alex Cusack .Cusack claimed two wickets with the final two balls of the Powerplay to set Afghanistan's chase back quite a bit. Gulbadin Naib top-scored with 43, but received little support from the rest of the middle order as Johnston made a telling contribution with the ball as well by picking up the wickets of Naib, Samiullah Shenwari and Najibullah Zadran in quick succession - he too was on a hat-trick in one point in his spell - to all but wrap up the game.
Seamer Murtagh delivered the winning blow, yorking Shapoor Zadran to seal the title.
Despite the crushing defeat, Afghanistan can take comfort in the fact that their spot in the World Twenty20 2014 is well secured, along with Ireland, Nepal, UAE, Hong Kong and Netherlands. Afghanistan have been drawn with hosts Bangladesh, Nepal and Hong Kong in Group A for the first round of next year's showpiece event. Ireland are in Group B, with Zimbabwe, UAE and Netherlands.