Afghanistan display their intentions
Afghanistan 134 for 5 (Stanikzai 39) beat Ireland 133 for 9 (D Ahmadzai 4-15) by five wickets
Afghanistan showed no signs of nerves on the eve of their big-stage debut, as they surged to an impressive five-wicket victory over Ireland with three balls to spare. Their victory was based around two inspired spells at either end of the game - first from the seamer, Dawlat Ahmadzai, who claimed 4 for 15, and then from Ashghar Stanikzai and Mohammad Nabi, who added 66 runs for the fifth wicket in six overs to swipe the contest from under Ireland's nose.
"Any team wants a jump start, no matter who you are playing against," said coach Kabir Khan. "Ireland are one of the best Associate teams and getting a victory against them when we were a bit down to start with was very important. As a coach the promising thing is that the boys are fighting hard and they are coming back into games which is not very easy in Twenty20."
After winning the toss and choosing to field, Afghanistan pushed Ireland onto the defensive from the first over, as Ahmadzai removed Will Porterfield for a second-ball duck with the Ireland captain swatting to square leg, before ripping through the rest of the top-order. Paul Stirling was caught and bowled for 6 before Alex Cusack had his middle stump extracted for the same score, and when the O'Brien brothers both fell in the space of six balls, Ireland were in disarray at 32 for 5.
It should have been 43 for 6 shortly afterwards, but John Mooney was given a life off a top edge and alongside they did their utmost to repair the damage adding 79 in nine overs for the sixth wicket, with Mooney cracking three sixes in a 33-ball 42. Trent Johnston chipped in with 16 from 13 balls to keep up the late impetus, but Ireland's total of 133 for 9 always seemed inadequate against such charged-up opponents.
Nevertheless, Afghanistan took their time to get their reply up and running, as the young spinner, George Dockrell, once again impressed with his guile and control, claiming 2 for 23 in four overs. After 13 overs, Afghanistan were only halfway to their target on 66 for 4.
But then Stanikzai, who was dropped at long on with Afghanistan still behind the rate, and Nabi went into overdrive, cracking four sixes between them. Gary Kidd, the bowler to suffer the drop, was dispatched for 17 in his solitary over of the innings. Nabi became Cusack's second victim of the innings with two runs still needed, but Raees Ahmadzai helped Stanikzai secure the contest with room to spare.
Afghanistan meet India in their first game on Saturday while Ireland play hosts West Indies on Friday.