DUBLIN: Ireland opener Andy Balbirnie pulls during the first Twenty20 International against Pakistan at Castle Avenue on Friday.—courtesy Seb Daly/Sportsfile
DUBLIN: Ireland opener Andy Balbirnie pulls during the first Twenty20 International against Pakistan at Castle Avenue on Friday.—courtesy Seb Daly/Sportsfile

DUBLIN: Pakistan’s preparations for the T20 World Cup were dealt with a shocking blow when Ireland registered their first-ever Twenty20 International win over the Babar Azam-led side in the first of the three-match series at Castle Avenue on Friday.

Ireland had been set 183 to win batting second, with Andy Balbirnie hitting 77 off 55 opening up before a 36 from Harry Tector and 24 off 12 balls from George Dockrell saw them come out on top.

The loss to Ireland, who are in Pakistan’s group in the T20 World Cup, comes after a series draw on home soil to a New Zealand squad missing most of their first-choice players. With Babar only recently reinstated as captain, it’s another bump in the road for their tournament preparation.

The hosts’ decision to bowl first at the toss was somewhat justified when Mark Adair found movement with the new ball. Yet for all the skills on display, it was a moment of brilliance in the field which did for Mohammad Rizwan. A mix-up with his opening partner Saim Ayub allowed Tector to run Rizwan out with a sharp throw to open Ireland’s account.

It wasn’t the last moment in the field to boost an Irish side who, given a difficult final five overs which saw Pakistan plunder 66 runs, needed all the assistance that was on offer. Barry McCarthy went wicket-less with the ball, but when he wasn’t bowling the Pembroke man came inches from one spectacular diving catch before later saving a maximum on the boundary with another athletic effort.

He finally did hold on to another difficult chance when diving forward to catch Fakhar Zaman. Just for good measure, he showed his footballing skills when kicking the ball on to the stumps to run out Shadab Khan.

It was Iftikhar Ahmed’s onslaught of 37 runs off 15 balls that boosted Pakistan to a rather competitive score as the right-hander smashed three fours and as many sixes.

Shaheen Shah Afridi, coming down the order, also delivered two lusty blows for maximums for his eight off 14.

Chasing 183, Ireland found themselves two down early on as Paul Stirling and Lorcan Tucker fell in the powerplay. That brought Tector and Balbirnie together. The former continued his T20 resurgence as he started his innings with a strong flick through the leg side. A disdainful pull on the front foot followed as Balbirnie made hay when sweeping Pakistan’s spinners.

After Tector top-edged Imad Wasim into the deep, Dockrell joined Balbirnie in the middle, promoted above Campher despite a previous weakness when starting against spin. It didn’t show, Dockrell swatting Shadab’s leg-spin down the ground before Iftikhar Ahmed gave both him and Ireland a life by stepping on the boundary when taking a potential catch.

Needing 19 off the final 12 balls with plenty of wickets in hand, Ireland’s win predictor sat at 85 per cent. That confidence didn’t account for Shaheen Shah Afridi. His full toss castled Balbirnie for 77, the Ireland opener crestfallen having left his team-mates with plenty of work to do.

Campher came in next ahead of regular finisher Adair. He responded with a stunning, audacious reverse ramp over the wicketkeeper, a staggering shot to reach boundary with the game on the line. An upper cut brought another boundary before a flick off the pads levelled the scores. On the penultimate delivery, Ireland scampered through for the one run required, knocking off the 11 required off the final six deliveries to secure victory.

SCOREBOARD

PAKISTAN:

Saim Ayub c Campher b Delany 45

Mohammad Rizwan run out (Tector) 1

Babar Azam c Adair b Young 57

Fakhar Zaman c McCarthy b Adair 20

Azam Khan c White b Young 0

Shadab Khan run out (McCarthy) 0

Iftikhar Ahmed not out 37

Shaheen Shah Afridi not out 14

EXTRAS (B-1, LB-2, W-5) 8

TOTAL (for six wickets, 20 overs) 182

DID NOT BAT: Imad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Abbas Afridi

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-7 (Rizwan), 2-92 (Saim), 3-116 (Babar), 4-116 (Azam), 5-123 (Shadab), 6-150 (Fakhar)

BOWLING: Adair 4-0-40-1 (1w), McCarthy 4-0-39-0 (2w), Young 4-0-27-2, Campher 3-0-30-0 (2w), White 3-0-32-0, Delany 2-0-11-1

IRELAND:

A. Balbirnie b Shaheen 77

P. Stirling c Babar b Naseem 8

L. Tucker c Fakhar b Abbas 4

H. Tector c Shaheen b Imad 36

G. Dockrell c Fakhar b Abbas 24

G. Delany not out 10

C. Campher not out 15

EXTRAS (LB-2, W-7) 9

TOTAL (for five wickets, 19.5 overs) 183

DID NOT BAT: M. Adair, B. McCarthy, C. Young, B. White,

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-14 (Stirling), 2-27 (Tucker), 3-104 (Tector), 4-143 (Dockrell), 5-167 (Balbirnie)

BOWLING: Shaheen 4-0-26-1 (3w), Naseem 4-0-37-1 (2w), Imad 4-0-28-1, Abbas 3.5-0-36-2 (1w), Shadab 4-0-54-0 (1w)

RESULT: Ireland win by five wickets.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2024

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