ANDY BALBIRNIE was left wondering what might have been as Ireland gained the upper hand over Afghanistan in Greater Noida, India, before letting it slip and losing a 12th straight T20 international by 21 runs, and with it the best-of-three series.
The new skipper was delighted with a sharp bowling and fielding effort that restricted the big hitting Afghan openers to 34 in the powerplay - and 64-1 at halfway - but that early good work was undone by a disastrous final over that cost 26 overs, allowing the home side to post 184-4.
“We started well because they are obviously very dangerous in the powerplay,” Balbirnie said. “But against a side like Afghanistan, you have to be good for 20 overs to get a result.”
Balbirnie and Harry Tector built a solid platform at 90-3 after 10 overs, but the introduction of demon leggie Rashid Khan saw the chase stall and only 24 come from the next five overs, exactly half the runs Afghanistan scored in the same period of their innings.
The skipper was caught at deep backward square for a top score of 46 and YMCA youngster Harry Tector followed up his 29 not out in the first game with 39 from 27 balls but 71 to win from the final five overs was too much to ask of the Ireland lower order.
“We tend to start well with the bat in T20s, but it’s about getting that right balance in the middle to get us over the line in tight games,” Balbirnie said. “The series is now gone but we’ll focus again on the third game - we’re going to be going in there looking for the win.”
Ireland will be hoping it’s unlucky 13 for Afghanistan in Tuesday’s dead rubber and they can beat their close rivals for the first time since 2013 in the shortest format.