Afghanistan 75 for 0 (Shahzad 52*) beat Ireland 71 (Nabi 4-10) by ten wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Afghanistan rubbished any claim that Ireland might pose a threat to the Asian side's Associate hegemony in limited-overs cricket, bulldozing their rivals by 10 wickets in the final of the inaugural Desert T20. Ireland appeared to be in perfect symphony building to the crescendo of the final, and remained in tune through the first eight balls.
But they hit their first duff note on the ninth, Stuart Poynter cutting Farid Ahmad to Rashid Khan at point, and the rest of their innings continued to be played in the wrong key. Afghanistan fed off the rhythmic chanting and clapping of the 15,000 strong crowd and played a fast and funky chart-busting ditty, which culminated in a record margin of victory and defeat respectively.
Paul Stirling lasted until the sixth over to top score with 17, but Greg Thompson was the only other player to reach double-digits, ending on 10 not out when Craig Young was bowled by Mohammad Nabi to wrap up the innings for 71 in 13.2 overs. Nawroz Mangal and Mohammad Shahzad then knocked off the runs in 47 balls with the Afghanistan squad sprinting on to the field as Shahzad struck the final boundary to clinch victory, sparking one more raucous wave of roars from the crowd.
Man of the Hour
Nabi's Twitter handle is @MohammadNabi007. He may be a cricketer in name but in practice he bowled as if he was a super spy experimenting with a fresh series of prototype gadgets designed by Q to subdue Ireland's line-up.
One might say, "he's only bowling offspin". But Ireland's batsman were on the receiving end of deliveries that appeared normal out of the hand before morphing into exploding pens and dart-shooting cufflinks in true James Bond fashion. By the end of the Powerplay he had figures of 3 for 9 in two overs, claiming Stirling, William Porterfield and Kevin O'Brien. He came back at the end to bowl Young, sealing Man of the Match figures of 4 for 10 off just 14 deliveries. Nabi was also named Man of the Tournament.
Man of the Day
Shahzad clobbered a disdainful 80 against Oman just after noon. A little more than nine hours later, he was putting the finishing touches on another half-century, hitting an unbeaten 52 off 40 balls to make it 132 runs in total on finals day. His first boundary was driven off Boyd Rankin's fourth ball over mid-off to loud cheers and as the ball bounced over the rope another chorus of screams went up as the crowd realised the umpire had signaled no-ball. The free hit was then cracked past point for another boundary before he laced a flat six over the leg side on the fifth legal ball of the over.
Perhaps the biggest roar went up for Shahzad on the first ball of the sixth, bowled by Young. He rocked back to cut but the ball careened towards Jacob Mulder at backward point. The legspinner lunged to his right and got two hands to it but it burst through with enough momentum to go to the rope for Shahzad's seventh four. For a brief moment the crowd was almost hushed, something William Porterfield said in the press conference afterward his side gets motivated to accomplish in front of a big game crowd such as this. It didn't happen and the party continued through the rest of the night.
Man of the Decade
Nawroz was feted with a red-carpet ceremony 10 minutes prior to the first ball. His Afghanistan team-mates created a guard of honour, arcing their bats for him to walk through and on to the field at the start of play. Former team-mates not in the current squad such as Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hassan flew in to be at the game not only to support the entire team but as a sign of respect for their beloved ex-captain.
At the start of the seventh over, with eight runs left to win, the stadium shifted their chant from "Afghanistan Zindabad!" to "Mangal! Mangal!" After the final ball was bowled, the Afghanistan team sprinted on to the field to hug him and Shahzad. Dawlat Zadran then hoisted Nawroz up and walked an entire victory lap with him on his shoulders as Nawroz waved to the crowd, who continued cheering and chanting his name.
When the lap was finished and Dawlat lowered him back to earth, Hamid and Shapoor were two of the first two give him hugs, along with ACB chairman Atif Mashal and chief executive Shafiqullah Stanikzai. They then backed away and gave him space to soak up the crowd one more time. As he walked off, Nawroz patted his heart. He gave so much of it, along with his soul, to the nation and in return they provided him a fitting send-off on a historic night in Dubai.
Ireland vs Afghanistan
Desert T20 Challenge
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna