Ghani to the rescue
Having scored just eight runs off seven balls in the first five overs of the powerplay, Ghani knew he needed to get a move on. With Rahmanullah Gurbaz gone in the fifth over, Ghani soon opened up his shoulders. He struck fast bowler Mark Adair for two successive fours at the start of the sixth over before launching offspinner Andy McBrine for an inside-out six over wide long off. Ghani rotated the strike well and often found the boundaries, forging important stands with Gurbaz, Hashmatullah Shahidi and then Najibullah Zadran. He reached his half-century - the second against Ireland in the format - off 35 balls to guide a sluggish Afghanistan batting unit. When Ghani eventually fell in the 15th over, he had laid a good foundation for the lower order to lift off from.
A roller-coaster of a bowling performance
Ireland had an iffy sort of a day with the ball. While they were excellent in patches, regular boundary balls released most of the pressure. A few of the bowling changes also did not help Ireland's cause. On a surface that had a bit of carry and steep bounce, Joshua Little and Adair were all over Afghanistan in the first three overs. They bowled the hard lengths and had Gurbaz, in particular, in a lot of strife.
Balbirnie's and Tector keep Ireland coasting
With a highest score of 14 in his last five T20I innings, Balbirnie had been under fire for a while. However, when required the most, he stood tall for his team. The Ireland captain looked the part from the get-go. He started off his boundary counter by smashing Mujeeb Ur Rahman over fine leg for a six before Fazalhaq Farooqi was cracked for two fours in the third over. Even as Paul Stirling played out a maiden at the other end, Balbirnie was not fussed. He found boundaries at regular intervals, and even his singles had a stamp of authority. Once Stirling fell, it was Tucker's time to shine. Both batters were unruffled through the middle overs. They played out Rashid Khan sedately but also made sure they rotated the strike whenever the chance arose. Balbirnie reached his seventh T20I half-century off 34 balls while Tucker reached his fourth off 31 balls. The duo added 62 runs for the second wicket.
Ireland almost fail to close out a game, again
The entire summer has been a case of so near yet so far for Ireland. They have failed to close out games having done all the hard yards. And, once again, they found themselves in a similar situation. At 121 for 1 after 14 overs, most would have hedged their bets on Ireland chasing the target down. But, the Afghanistan bowlers kept the fight on. The equation finally came down to Ireland needing 23 off the last two overs. Farooqi then bowled a decent 19th over that went for just ten runs despite Tector smashing a six off the second ball.
Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo