Recent Match Report – Afghanistan vs Ireland 1st T20I 2023/24

Ireland 149 for 6 (Tector 56*, Rashid 3-19, Kharote 2-16) beat Afghanistan 111 (Ishaq 32, White 4-20, Little 3-18) by 38 runs

Ahead of the T20I series opener between Afghanistan and Ireland, all the hype had been about Rashid Khan. He was to return to action after four months out due to a back injury and then surgery. Rashid was back in high spirits almost as if no pain could take his impact away. Except that on the night, his efforts of 3 for 19 from four overs were overshadowed by those of Harry Tector, with whom rested a bigger force – luck.

Dropped on 19 when Ireland were 90 for 5 in the 15th over, Tector went on to smash an unbeaten 56 off 34 balls to propel Ireland to 149. The ball followed him on the field too, as he took four catches – the most by an Ireland fielder in a T20I. Tector’s bowling team-mates were then led by legspinner Ben White, who took 4 for 20, as Afghanistan folded for 111. That gave them a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, even as the stadium in Sharjah seemed to empty only when Rashid fell as the ninth Afghanistan wicket.

Tector drives Ireland’s innings

Tector arrived at No. 4, and pulled his second ball for four to welcome Mohammad Nabi into the attack in the ninth over. But what was 54 for 1 in the eighth over soon became 72 for 5 in the 12th while he was stuck at one end. Rashid and his spin partner, debutant Nangeyalia Kharote, ran through the middle order after both of Ireland’s openers gave away starts.

But Tector remained calm and patient. He gave a hint of the fun that was to come by crashing Kharote for his first six to start the 14th over. When Tector decided to go after Rashid, Fazalhaq Farooqi dropped a manageable catch moving to his left from short fine leg. That rang a bell, and Tector saw off Rashid before opening up the floodgates in the last three overs.

Naveen-ul-Haq suffered the most. Tector drove a yorker and slashed another near-yorker for four, before chipping a slower ball over Naveen’s head to round off the 18th over with 14 runs. Naveen also bowled the last over, which went for 19, as Tector clubbed the last four balls for 6, 4, 4, 4: over deep square, to deep extra cover, to deep point and to deep third. Tector’s last 11 balls fetched 30 runs.

Rashid turns it on

Rashid turned the ball both ways on what was a slow and used pitch, applying the brakes after Ireland hit 48 in the powerplay. He bowled one over for five, and brought himself back for the 11th. A full and flat ball had Paul Stirling mistime a slog to long-on, while a googly turning in to hit middle and leg from outside off cleaned Curtis Campher up next ball. The Afghanistan fans, scattered through the stands, jumped at their hero’s skill.

Rashid missed the hat-trick – the ball turned into left-hander Neil Rock, beating him, the wicketkeeper and first slip – but later dismissed Gareth Delany, who scored a useful 16 from No. 7, while adding 35 with Tector.

White’s four-for punctures Afghanistan

Three bowlers stood a chance to take a hat-trick on Friday evening. After Rashid, it was Josh Little, who had Sediqullah Atal chipping to mid-off and had Azmatullah Omarzai bowled in the second over of Afghanistan’s chase. The third of those was White, but not before he had taken two wickets already.

Little’s early blows – and one from Mark Adair – had reduced Afghanistan to 4 for 3, after which Mohammad Ishaq and Ibrahim Zadran staged a recovery. Ishaq had by far been the aggressor, but holed out to fine leg when he swept a full delivery dipping to a middle-stump line in the seventh over. That wicket punctured Afghanistan’s car.

Then some controversy followed. White dismissed Nabi off a no-ball on what was to be the fourth ball of the 13th over. However, replays indicated that White’s heel had landed just behind the line, seeing which Stirling had a word with the umpire. But the decision stood, and Nabi got a life.

With two balls left in the over, though, White had debutant Ijaz Ahmad Ahmadzai pulling a short ball to deep square leg and then Kharote, who he knocked over first ball, by tossing one up and getting it to dip, while drifting away to hit off stump. White finished with four, and took all attention away from the man whom the crowd had turned up to see.

Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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