Recent Match Report – Afghanistan vs Ireland 3rd T20I 2019 | ESPNcricinfo.com

How much action can you pack into a single game of T20 cricket? Afghanistan and Ireland have practically dedicated an entire series to answering that question and here’s what happened on Sunday night.

Mohammad Nabi made 81 off 36 balls. He came in to bat with nearly half the innings done. Kevin O’Brien replied with 74 off 47. He was single-handedly keeping Ireland in the game. Then with only five overs of the contest left, Rashid Khan ambled up and picked up four wickets in four balls, a feat so rare it hasn’t been seen in international cricket since Lasith Malinga sent South African pulses racing in the 2007 World Cup.

In all, there were 388 runs scored – 210 by Afghanistan and 178 by Ireland – off 40 overs. And yet, it felt like the people of Dehradun – and indeed anyone that’s been following this series – left wanting oh so much more.

Afghanistan have a way of making their fans feel that way in practically every game, and Rashid plays a big part in that. He is a masterful bowler, and aside from all the variations that he has, including even that legbreak that he seems to deliver out the back of the hand, his time-tested ability to deliver in the death makes for spectacular viewing. He dismissed O’Brien off the final ball of the 16th over with a ball that he tossed up wide, knowing the big-hitting allrounder had to go for runs and that his instinct would make him slog into the leg side. The resulting bottom edge was ever so smartly taken by the wicketkeeper Shafiqullah.

With Ireland needing 53 off 18 balls, Rashid had George Dockrell caught at long-on (thanks to some incredible acrobatics on the boundary from Nabi) and his googly practically made Shane Getkate and Simi Singh self-destruct. The Afghanistan legspinner finished with 5 for 27. His overall average and strike-rate in T20Is are 12. Twelve!

Asghar Afghan has repeatedly said his team can defend any total in a limited-overs game. And there’s no real secret to it. They try to keep things tight at the start to push the asking rate up. Then, when the batsmen are feeling vulnerable and left with little option but to attack, Rashid comes on and complicates everything. His control – rarely does he give up the short and wide delivery to cut and pull – sparks their undoing. And by constantly asking the opposition to try and hit good balls to the boundary, he gets truckloads of wickets.

Those four balls, those four moments, stole the spotlight from an amazing innings. Well, two actually. Nabi and O’Brien are among the longest-serving allrounders in world cricket. And they only keep getting stronger. Nabi, at 34, is desperately sought after on the T20 circuit and O’Brien, having waited virtually his entire career to play a Test match, became Ireland’s first centurion just last year.

Each is a hero in his own right but here only of them could emerge, silhouetted against the dust as it settled down on an epic game. And that was Nabi. He came in to bat in the eighth over, made 22 off the first 20 balls he faced, and then promptly lashed 59 off the next 16. If ever an innings had a split personality…

And if you’re imagining a slew of front-leg cleared hoicks over cow corner, just stop it. Nabi crashed all but one of his seven sixes down the ground. He then came on to bowl, conceded only 28 off his four overs, and then yielded the stage to the man whose name is Khan.