PAUL STIRLING scored his seventh T20 half-century in 12 months but Ireland could not mark their 1,000th game with a win in Greater Noida, India, as Afghanistan continued to dominate in the short format with an 11-run D/L victory in the first of a three-match series.

While openers Stirling and Kevin O’Brien were adding 63 in six overs, Ireland looked good to end an 10-match losing sequence against a team they have not beaten in a T20 international since the World Cup qualifying final in 2013.

Stirling made 72 in that game and top scored again yesterday (FRI) but when he was caught and bowled for 60 in Rashid Khan’s second over, with O’Brien already bowled for 35, the charge was checked and Ireland’s youngsters struggled against the world’s best T20 spinner.

Harry Tector struck a six and three fours in a bright 29 not out from 17 balls but an Ireland total of 172-6 did not look enough on an excellent batting pitch and so it proved despite a couple of wickets from Simi Singh and two sharp run-outs.

“We’ve got areas to work on but we’re still very much in this contest,” acting head coach Rob Cassell said. “We got off to a great start in the powerplay which was pleasing but there are areas in the middle of the innings and at the back end where we can look to improve.

“Simi had bowled a couple of great overs to get the momentum back after they’d started well and the way it ended with the rain was frustrating because with 40 needed from five we thought we were still in it.”

If Ireland are to notch a win in the second game, which will be played at the same venue south of Delhi tomorrow, (SUN) they must find a better way of scoring against man-of-the-match Rashid, who took 3-22 and has never lost a T20 to the Boys in Green