Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Balbirnie’s 77 leads the way as Ireland beat Pakistan for the first time in T20Is

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Ireland 183 for 5 (Balbirnie 77, Tector 36, Abbas 2-36) beat Pakistan 182 for 6 (Babar 57, Ayub 45, Young 2-27) by five wickets

Ireland and Pakistan were playing each other in a T20I for the first time in 15 years, and Andy Balbirnie’s 77 helped the hosts beat the visitors. It was Ireland’s first win over Pakistan in the format, with the only time the teams having met earlier coming at the World T20 in 2009.

Harry Tector, who added 77 with Balbirnie for the third wicket, set the platform in the 183-run chase, before cameos from George Dockrell and Curtis Campher took Ireland over the line.

The chase came down to a tense finish, with Ireland needing 40 in the last four overs even as Pakistan had an over each from Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi, along with two from Abbas Afridi, in the bank. Abbas started the 17th over with the wicket of Dockrell and conceded just three off the first four balls. But then began the recurring theme of a bowler starting the over well before conceding a late boundary and bringing down the asking rate.

Next over, with Ireland requiring another 28 from 17 balls, Shadab Khan couldn’t hold on to a tough chance, and handed Balbirnie a life. Naseem nailed a couple of yorkers to bring the game back in the balance. But Delany made room and crunched a low full toss through cover to make it 11 off the over.

Shaheen was closer to his best in the penultimate over, which started with Ireland requiring another 19. He delivered around-the-wicket yorkers, and knocked over Balbirnie with a swerving, low full toss. But an audacious reverse ramp first ball from Campher over the keeper left Abbas with 11 to defend off the final over.

Campher was taken aback by the first ball by Abbas rising off a shortish length, but managed to guide it off the under-edge between the wicketkeeper and short third for four. He capitalised on a missed yorker to level the scores before sneaking a leg bye to seal victory.

Balbirnie, Tector set up the chase

Ireland’s aggressive start to the chase saw Naseem dismiss Paul Stirling cheaply. Shaheen was off boil in his two opening overs but Abbas, his replacement, struck first ball after being given to bowl in the powerplay.

But coming in at 27 for 2 did not stop Tector from looking for early boundaries. It allowed Balbirnie to consolidate at the other end, as the pair lifted Ireland from 43 for 2 in the powerplay to 84 for 2 after ten overs. They targeted Shadab Khan after Imad Wasim tightened his length to stay afloat.

Tector fell to Imad but Dockrell joined Balbirnie to take Shadab down for 23 in the match-turning 14th over. The last ball was skied towards Iftikhar Ahmed at long-on, but he stepped on the boundary cushion to give Dockrell a life, along with six runs. Balbirnie and Dockrell kept the run rate around nine an over to set up the successful finish.

Babar fifty, Iftikhar cameo lift Pakistan

Earlier in the day, Ireland had put Pakistan in to bat. Babar Azam joined Saim Ayub in the second over after Tector, placed at mid-off, ran Mohammed Rizwan out, as the latter was called for a single by Ayub, before being sent back.

Babar and Ayub found mixed success while trying to muscle the ball in the powerplay, as they hit six fours and a six, but were also often beaten by Mark Adair and Barry McCarthy’s tight lengths.

After the powerplay, the two batters took on Ben White and Curtis Campher, as they accelerated and added 53 off the next five overs. They punished at anything too full or too short, but Ayub holed out to a wide drag down from Delany, who ended the 85-run stand off 57 balls.

Babar brought up a 39-ball fifty in the 13th over, but the scoring kept fluctuating as he continued to hit and miss, even as Fakhar Zaman was unable to get off the blocks.

Young’s return in the 13th over pegged Pakistan back as Babar miscued a shortish ball to long-on to finish with a 43-ball 57, while Azam Khan, trying to go over deep square leg, fell for a two-ball duck.

Pakistan went on to lose 3 for 7 in six legal balls midway from the 15th over onwards. Fakhar then fell in the 18th over for 20 off 18 balls, but Iftikhar was unfazed. He took a liking to Adair, smacking him for three sixes and two fours across eight legal balls.

Iftikhar, who finished on 38* from 15 balls, was aided by Shaheen’s two sixes off McCarthy in the 19th over, as Pakistan smashed 44 off the last three to reach 182, which Ireland chased down with a ball to spare.

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