Balbirnie leads Ireland to T20 win over Pakistan

Andrew Balbirnie in action for Ireland. File photo

Andrew Balbirnie’s 77 helped guide Ireland to their first victory over Pakistan in 17 years as they won the opening Twenty20 international by five wickets in Dublin on Friday.

The opener’s innings was pivotal as Ireland reached a target of 183 with a ball to spare.

Victory gave Ireland a 1-0 lead in a three-match series against a Pakistan side they will also face in the group stage of next month’s T20 World Cup in the United States and the West Indies.

It was just Ireland’s second win against Pakistan following their shock triumph at the 2007 50-over World Cup.

Pakistan skipper and star batsman Babar Azam top-scored for the tourists on Friday with 57 in a total of 182-6 that also featured Saim Ayub’s 45.

“I didn’t watch the last over. (I) went to the tent and put a towel over my head,” said Balbirnie, who shared a third-wicket stand of 77 with Harry Tector, at the presentation ceremony.

“I felt it was my job to get the team over the line… Harry said if we could bat normally till the 13th over, we could get the runs. That was a partnership which set it up.”

Azam, meanwhile, absolved his bowlers of blame for the defeat.

“I think 190 would have been a par score,” he said.

“We lost in the fielding and batting. (I) don’t think we executed the plans. Few fielding lapses cost us.

“We attacked in the first six overs but didn’t finish well.”

Ireland needed 40 to win from the last four overs, with Abbas Afridi dismissing George Dockrell for 24.

Next over, with Ireland requiring another 28 from 17 balls, Shadab Khan gave Balbirnie a reprieve by failing to hold a tough chance.

Come the penultimate over, Ireland’s target was down to 19.

But Pakistan quick Shaheen Shah Afridi bowled Balbirnie with a low full toss to end the opener’s impressive 55-ball innings, which featured 10 fours and two sixes.

With Ireland needing 11 off the last over, Curtis Campher under-edged a boundary off Abbas and eventually sealed victory with a leg bye.

The teams meet again in Dublin on Sunday and Tuesday.

Brief scores

Pakistan: 182-6, 20 overs (Babar Azam 57; C Young 2-27)

Ireland: 183-5, 19.5 overs (A Balbirnie 77; Abbas Afridi 2-36)

Result: Ireland won by five wickets

Series: Ireland lead three-match series 1-0

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