<
>

Rashid's 5 for 3 keeps Afghanistan's streak alive

Afghanistan 184 for 8 (Tarakai 90, Nabi 34, McCarthy 4-33) beat Ireland 93 for 9 (Stirling 34, Rashid 5-3) by 17 runs (D/L method)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Twelve little balls of legspin. How much damage could it really do? Well, it could change the fate of a T20I, vault the practitioner to the greatest of heights and protect a proud winning streak that seemed all but dead. Before Rashid Khan, no one had ever taken a five-wicket haul in as little time as two overs in Twenty20 international cricket. The record, though, was merely a byproduct of his ability to vary pace, prey on the pressure the Ireland batsmen felt and then toss up the hit-me ball, which invariably turned out to be a googly that bamboozled everyone. The slogs came, the stumps were broken, the rest became history.

Afghanistan came into the match with nine straight wins in the shortest format. It was already a world record, but their hopes of pushing it to 10 took a major hit when heavy rain lashed across the Greater Noida Sports Complex. With only the pitch and the bowler's run-ups under covers, the majority of the outfield took on a lot of water and it was testament to the ground staff that the match even restarted. Ireland had been 65 for 2 in 6.1 overs when the weather intervened, which put them 12 runs ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis par score considering the target was 185. Then the rain stopped.

And Rashid went to work. He hoodwinked Kevin O'Brien and Gary Wilson with wrong 'uns in his first over. His next one was a triple-wicket maiden and it simply trampled upon all the hope Ireland had of levelling the three-match series. Their target was revised to 111 in 11 overs - or 46 runs to win off the remaining 29 balls. It was a tough ask but perhaps some of the senior batsmen should have taken a little time to get themselves set again. Instead, they chose to hit out as wildly as the tailenders who would follow and 65 for 2 became 93 for 9 in what could well have been the blink of an eye.

All of that made for excellent viewing for opener Najeeb Tarakai. He had hammered 90 off 58 balls to become the only man not named Mohammad Shahzad among in the list of top six scores by an Afghanistan batsman in T20Is. Spending two hours on the sidelines watching the showers lash across the ground wouldn't have been pleasant for him after driving his team from the doldrums of 12 for 2 in the third over to 175 for 6 by the time he was dismissed in the 20th. It was his first half-century in the format, including seven fours and five sixes, and most importantly, it turned out to be match-winning effort.