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Afghanistan bundle out Ireland for 79 to seal series

Afghanistan 160 for 8 (Zazai 82, Chase 3-35) beat Ireland 79 (Porterfield 33, Rashid 4-17, Mujeeb 3-17) by 81 runs

A second consecutive fifty from Hazratullah Zazai helped the visitors mirror their total of 160 from the first match, before Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan broke the back of Ireland's chase to script a seventh straight T20I win for Afghanistan over them.

The win by 81 runs equalled Afghanistan's second-largest victory margin in the format, and rendered the final T20I of the series a dead rubber. It also meant Ireland were shot out for their fourth-lowest T20I total: 79.

For a while it looked like a change in team and strategy would bring about a change in Ireland's fortunes, when they stifled the run-flow and snaffled early wickets in the Powerplay. That is, until Zazai awoke from a stupor and muscled his way to a 54-ball 82. There was quite a similarity in the way the two teams started off with the bat - finding themselves 8 for 2 - but what separated them was Zazai's sustained power-hitting and Afghanistan's bowling depth.

The inclusion of the experienced Boyd Rankin, who had recovered from a back niggle, and the introduction of spin in the Powerplay propped up Ireland early on. Rankin's penchant for generating disconcerting bounce kept the dangerous Zazai in check in the first over, after Afghanistan had chosen to bat. Offspinner Simi Singh followed this up with the wicket of Mohammad Shahzad, who attempted an awkward pull to one that hurried on to him only to be caught at short third-man. Samiullah Shenwari followed soon after, caught on the square-leg boundary off a Peter Chase short ball that held up in the pitch.

Overall the Irish pacers used the short ball effectively during the Powerplay and reaped rewards, as the run rate hovered around seven. However, having stabilised the innings considerably, Zazai and captain Asghar Afghan found an opening and they battered their way in, taking 19 off the 10th over bowler by the 18-year-old left-arm pacer Joshua Little. Then Zazai tore into Paul Stirling's part-time spin, depositing him into the stands three times in four balls. The first of those three sixes brought up Zazai's fifty off 34 balls.

George Dockrell halted his charge in an excellent 16th over rife with full, wide deliveries which, Zazai's wicket apart, produced three consecutive dots and just two singles. Much like the previous T20I, Afghanistan did not take full toll of the final five overs, but a few lusty blows from Mohammad Nabi (12) and an unbeaten 20 from Najibullah Zadran helped them to 160 for 8.

Any hopes Ireland had of chasing the target were quelled quickly. Like falling through a series of trapdoors, they lost wickets in clumps.

Aftab Alam set the collapse in motion, with the wicket of Stirling for a scratchy five-ball 2 before the spinners took over, taking eight wickets between them. Mujeeb accounted for Stuart Thompson, Andy Balbirnie and later Dockrell. Rashid made the most decisive inroad, getting William Porterfield - the only batsman to show a semblance of resistance - for a 23-ball 33. However, the wicket was rendered possible primarily by Alam's brilliance in the field, with him intercepting Porterfield's airborne reverse sweep at short third-man.

It was the kind of moment that could deflate even better-placed opposition. Ireland, trying as they were to recover from 9 for 3, found themselves 46 for 4 in the ninth with that wicket, and they subsided quickly thereafter, bowled out in 15 overs.

Ireland 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st6PR StirlingSR Thompson
2nd2WTS PorterfieldSR Thompson
3rd1WTS PorterfieldA Balbirnie
4th37GC WilsonWTS Porterfield
5th14KJ O'BrienGC Wilson
6th4GC WilsonSimi Singh
7th2GC WilsonGH Dockrell
8th2GH DockrellJ Little
9th7WB RankinJ Little
10th4PKD ChaseJ Little