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Punishing Balbirnie hands Ireland maiden win over Pakistan

Dublin, 10 May 2024Andy Balbirnie’s swashbuckling 77 runs off 55 balls laid the foundation for Ireland’s five-wicket victory over Pakistan in the first T20I of the three-match series here on Friday, marking only the second T20I between the two nations.

Chasing a difficult 183-run target, Ireland reached 43 for two in the PowerPlay and then 153 for four in 17 overs. Needing 11 runs off the final six deliveries, Curtis Campher struck two fours, ran a double and stole the winning run off a leg-bye off the penultimate ball to hand Ireland their first win over Pakistan. Campher remained not out on 15 runs from seven balls.

Balbirnie was undoubtedly the star of Ireland’s victory and deserving player of the match. The opener clobbered 10 fours and two sixes, forming a crucial 77-run third-wicket partnership off 52 balls with Harry Tector, who contributed 36 off 27 balls with three sixes and a four.

After Tector departed, Balbirnie added 39 runs off 20 balls for the fourth wicket with all-rounder George Dockrell, who clubbed two sixes and two fours in a 12-ball 24. Balbirnie’s other useful partnership was for the fifth wicket with Gareth Delany (10 not out), yielding 24 runs off 15 balls.

For Pakistan, Mohammad Abbas Afridi finished with figures of two for 36, while Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Imad Wasim snapped up a wicket each.

Earlier, a blistering knock by Iftikhar Ahmed and his unbroken 32-run seventh-wicket partnership off 13 balls with Shaheen Shah Afridi lifted Pakistan from a precarious 150 for six in 17.5 overs to 182 for six in 20 overs.

Iftikhar slapped three sixes and three fours in a 15-ball 37 not out, while Shaheen’s eight-ball 14 not out included two towering sixes.

Pakistan seemed on course for a formidable total before they lost Babar Azam, Azam Khan, and Shadab Khan in the space of five deliveries, slipping from 116 for two in 14.3 overs to 123 for five in 15.2 overs. When Fakhar Zaman departed at the score of 150 in 17.5 overs, a score of 180 plus looked out of reach.

However, Iftikhar and Shaheen demonstrated their power-hitting abilities to collect 32 runs in the remaining 13 deliveries to guide Pakistan to a score from where they could dictate terms.

Babar Azam and Saim Ayub had laid the foundation of a strong total before the boat rocked, which was solidified by Iftikhar and Shaheen. After Mohammad Rizwan was run-out in the second over, Babar and Saim put on 87 runs from 57 balls for the second wicket.

Babar, who batted at No. 3 to allow Saim to open the innings with Rizwan, notched up his 35th career T20I half-century when he scored 57 runs off 43 balls with a strike-rate of 132.5. His innings was studded with eight fours and a six.

Babar has now scored 3,880 runs in 115 matches and will be aiming to become the second batter after Virat Kohli to achieve the 4,000 runs milestone. Kohli has scored 4,037 runs in 117 T20Is. Rohit Sharma has 3,974 runs in 151 matches, but he won’t be playing any T20Is until next month’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024.

Saim struck four fours and three sixes in a 29-ball 45.

Scores in brief:

Ireland beat Pakistan by five wickets

Pakistan 182-6, 20 overs (Babar Azam 57, Saim Ayub 45, Iftikhar Ahmed 37 not out, Fakhar Zaman 20, Craig Young 2-27)

Ireland 183-5, 19.5 overs (Andy Balbirnie 77, Harry Tector 36, George Dockrell 24; Mohammad Abbas Afridi 36)

Player of the match – Andy Balbirnie (Ireland)

2nd T20I – Sunday, 12 May

3rd T20I – Tuesday, 14 May