KEVIN O’BRIEN ended a seven-year winless run against Afghanistan in dramatic style with a six from the last ball of a Super Over as Ireland squeezed to victory in the third and final T20 international in Greater Noida, India.
Afghanistan had already secured the best-of-three series and looked on course for a whitewash that would have extended their winning run to 13 games when they restricted the Boys in Green to a below par 142-8 on another good batting pitch.
But Ireland fought back tenaciously with the ball and excellent spells from Gareth Delany, Simi Singh and Craig Young left the hosts needing Rashid Khan to clear the ropes in the final over and then hit the last ball to the cover boundary to tie the scores.
Ireland chose Young to bowl their Super Over and the Tyrone seamer allowed Afghanistan only eight runs, a total that Rashid did not look likely to defend when Paul Stirling smashed his second ball to the mid-wicket boundary.
Stirling went for glory again next ball and was lbw to the world’s best leggie, Harry Tector could only find a single from the next two but, with three needed, O’Brien sparked scenes of jubilation on the Ireland bench as he lofted Rashid back over his head and cleared the ropes.
“A lot of people would have thought we were dead and buried after our innings,” captain Andy Balbirnie said. ‘But we showed the bit of fight and character that I want to see every time we go out to play. To defend 142 – and go again in the Super Over - was a great effort.
“Craig Young bowled a brilliant Super Over. The guys can take a lot from that, we may have lost the series but in the last few months we’ve beaten West Indies away and now Afghanistan, so that’s a big plus. They are an excellent team.”
Youngsters Delany, who top-scored with 37, and Tector were the stand-out performers in the series for Ireland who gave popular assistant coach Rob Cassell a fitting send-off in his last game before taking up a post in the Indian Premier League.