Belfast (Ireland), Aug 13 (IANS): Ireland's middle-order batter George Dockrell struck his maiden T20I half-century but the hosts still ended up losing the third game by 22 runs as Afghanistan clawed back after two successive defeats to finally taste success in the five-match series on Saturday (IST).
The touring side's top four batters delivered to put up a strong total of 189/5, and Ireland were quickly reduced to 36/4 in their run chase.
The hosts looked down and out at 85/7 in the 13th over, but Dockrell (58 not out off 37 balls) and debutant Fionn Hand (36 off 18) kept Ireland's hopes alive with an eighth-wicket partnership worth 74 -- just six runs short of a world-record eighth wicket stand in T20I cricket, according to Cricket Ireland. In the end, though, Afghanistan held on to celebrate their first win of the series to make it 1-2 after three games.
Afghanistan were quick to put aside a difficult performance with the bat in the second T20I -- 11 runs from Mark Adair's opening over set the base for a 90-run opening partnership between Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai.
Gurbaz was the more expansive presence at the top of the order, hitting eight fours and a six on his way to a 31-ball half-century, the landmark reached from the final ball of the 10th over.
Ireland were finally able to celebrate in the 12th over, when Gurbaz slashed hard at Josh Little -- the ball met the edge of the bat, ballooning up high and eventually into the safe hands of Adair at short third man. A couple of overs later Hand was able to celebrate his first international wicket, with Zazai finding Paul Stirling at short third, who took a fine tumbling catch low to his right.
But the loss of the openers didn't hinder Afghanistan, with Ibrahim Zadran stepping up in an enterprising cameo -- he smashed a quick-fire 36 before an attempted stroke down the leg-side saw him guide a Little delivery to the wicketkeeper.
Set a steep target of 190, Ireland were in trouble quickly in their chase, losing Stirling for a duck in the first over -- the right-hander couldn't take advantage of a full toss, hitting Fazalhaq Farooqi to Usman Ghani at cover.
A couple of overs later Farooqi was celebrating the wicket of the other Irish opener -- Balbirnie also fell victim to a full toss, slashing a wide delivery to backward point to depart for 1.
Brief scores: Afghanistan 189/5 in 20 overs (R Gurbaz 53, N Zadran 42; J Little 2/29) beat Ireland 167/9 in 20 overs (G Dockrell 58 not out, F Hand 36; F Farooqi 2/11) by 22 runs.