Brilliant Balbirnie levels ODI series for Ireland
Andy Balbirnie upstaged Najibullah Zadran by crafting his highest score for Ireland to seal a series-levelling four-wicket one-day international victory over Afghanistan in Dehradun.
The tourists were whitewashed in the Twenty20 series and lost the ODI opener before the second was abandoned due to rain, but claimed an elusive victory on Tuesday.
Zadran (104 not out) smashed a maiden hundred for his country and captain Asghar Afghan made 75 in a total of 256-8, Tim Murtagh (2-60) and Boyd Rankin (2-56) taking two wickets apiece.
Balbirnie capitalised on being dropped on 51, hitting eight sixes and as many fours in a magnificent unbeaten 145 off 136 balls with support from George Dockrell (54) to get Ireland home with an over to spare.
ANDY BALBIRNIE – TAKE A BOW!— ICC (@ICC) March 5, 2019
What a win for Ireland! @balbo90 finishes unbeaten on 145 from 136 balls as Ireland chase down 257 with an over to spare. Simply sensational. #AFGvIRE SCORECARD https://t.co/WqdqtBz2TVpic.twitter.com/3RM1Z8Zm24
Afghanistan were in trouble on 74-5 after Afghan won the toss, but the captain and Zadran came to the rescue with a stand of 117.
Zadran was the chief aggressor, clearing the ropes five times in a destructive knock, while Afghan hit three sixes of his own as they upped the run rate.
The picture was looking bleak for Ireland when they were reduced to 29-3 - Dawlat Zadran picking up two early victims - but the clean-striking Balbirnie dragged them out of the mire with an outstanding knock.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Samiullah Shinwari were given the treatment as Balbirnie flexed his muscles, Rahmat Shah giving him a life by palming a chance at deep square-leg over the boundary and that proved to be costly.
Dockrell provided valuable support in a fifth-wicket stand of 143 and Balbirnie was put down again in the penultimate over before hitting a couple of boundaries to seal the win.