Hazratullah Zazai was the man of the moment as his sensational 62-ball 162 helped Afghanistan record the highest T20I total – 278 for 3 – in the second T20I against Ireland. 


Bogged down by the huge target that was led by Hazratullah Zazai, the Irish side lost the game by 84 runs and conceded the series as well. Though the ‘visitors’ started off on a high, the target was a little too much for the asking, as they eventually ended their innings on 194 or 6.

On a day of remarkable feats – Sri Lanka had earlier scripted history by becoming the first Asian Test team to win a series in South Africa – Zazai ensured that the statisticians were on overdrive as he struck the third fastest ton in the format. He hit a total of 16 sixes in his innings – yet another record – and set the second-highest T20I score after Aaron Finch’s 172. Things seemed to go in favor of the Afghanistan unit right from the very start as they won the toss and chose to bat first, and this decision was aptly proven right by an opening partnership of 236 runs in just 17.3 overs.

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The carnage by Zazai started in the third over itself as the Afghan batters took 15 runs off a Peter Chase over. The over gave the hosts the much-needed momentum and soon they had crossed 64 in the first six overs, with Zazai scoring 35 off 19 deliveries. He got his 50 six balls later and then decided to attack from thereon. He struck two sixes and a four off a Kevin O’Brien over and raced to 83 runs in just 35 deliveries. The 150-run stand was brought up in the 12th over itself and the pressure on the Irish side could be seen. Paul Stirling bowled three wides in a row and he was punished for the same, as Zazai struck three sixes in succession to get to his 100 in just 42 deliveries.

However, instead of stopping, he continued and soon Ghani got into the attack as well. He played a mature hand and held the innings together as his partner was teeing away every delivery that came his way. Ghani was ultimately dismissed in the 18th over, but the damage had been done by then.

With a huge target of 279 to chase down, Stirling came out all guns blazing and took the fight to the rivals. The Irish team managed to make more than 10 runs an over for the most part of the innings, but that too was not enough as they were left with 170 to chase in 60 deliveries.

The initial assault by the Irish team was a combined result of Stirling’s aggressive approach and Afghanistan’s ploy to hold back Rashid Khan. After Ireland had managed 69 in their first six overs, Rashid came into the attack to stall the momentum. He conceded just 6 in the first over and with Mujeeb Ur Rahman getting into the act as well, the writing was on the wall. The third T20I of the series is scheduled to be held on Sunday, and though Ireland are massively on the backfoot, they would hope to register a win and enter the ODIs with a bit of confidence.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 278/3 in 20 overs (Hazratullah Zazai 162*) beat Ireland 194/6 in 20 overs (Paul Stirling 91; Rashid Khan 4-25) by 84 runs.

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