A decisive partnership of 148 in 195 balls between Balbirnie and the impressive James Shannon (66), secured the win after Ireland had lost two early wickets. Adrian D’Arcy opened the innings in the absence of Stuart Thompson and Paul Stirling, but only lasted four balls before edging Aftab Alam to wicket-keeper Asfar Khan. Lee Nelson looked to have settled in making 16 before playing on, again off the bowling of Aftab.
Afghanistan will rue missed opportunities, as Balbirnie profited from a series of dropped chances. He did time the ball particularly well, hitting nine fours all around the ground. He scored his 108 from 139 balls, a fine effort for his first time in the middle on tour, having missed the warm up games in Australia with a knee injury.
James Shannon proved the perfect partner for Balbirnie, hitting seven boundaries in his 66 which came off 86 balls. He looked very assured and compact at the crease, timing and placing the ball very well, as the pair ran the Afghans ragged, rotating the strike at will. Shannon did benefit from one reprieve, with Afsar Khan missing a regulation stumping when he was on 38.
Shannon was eventually dismissed with 31 needed for victory, edging a short ball from Izat Dawlatzi to the keeper. That brought Ben Ackland to the crease, and he played some beautiful strokes to bring the game to a swift conclusion. Indeed he struck four boundaries in the final over of the innings, to finish on 24 not out from 16 balls.
In the Afghanistan innings, Craig Young was the stand out performer, bowling with pace and accuracy, taking 2 for 26 in his ten over unbroken opening spell. Shane Getkate struggled with the blustery conditions, as did Eddie Richardson, but the spinners bowled tidily and Afghanistan were never really able to break the shackles.
Skipper Noor Ul Haq scored 50 from 74 deliveries, before holing out to George Dockrell on the long on boundary, but the real star of the show for Afghanistan was left hander Hashmat Shaidi. He blasted his way to 91 not out from just 85 balls, hitting 12 fours and one six. He was particularly savage in the batting power play, as 42 runs came in the five over spell.
George Dockrell, called into the senior Ireland squad for the T20 World Cup Qualifiers took 3-46, while Andrew Balbirnie (2-41), kept it tight, as did Lee Nelson who conceded just 35 runs in his ten over spell.
Ireland impressed in the field after a shaky start, with Adrian D’Arcy hitting the stumps direct to secure a run
out, and both Dockrell and Balbirnie took good catches off their own bowling.
Speaking after the win Andrew Balbirnie said, “It was satisfying to get another win under our belts. I timed the ball well and felt good out there. I gave a few chances, but they didn’t take them. James Shannon batted superbly, and we seemed to complement each other during our stand. It’s something we’ve talked about, building substantial partnerships and players getting big scores when set. I thought Craig Young bowled great, and I had no hesitation bowling him straight through. The win gives us confidence, and we showed we can chase down targets. We play the West Indies on Tuesday, and that will be a good test for the squad.”