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Balbirnie-inspired Ireland stun Pakistan in first T20I

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DUBLIN: Andy Balbirnie’s blistering 77-run knock after a combined bowling display led Ireland to stun Pakistan in the first T20I of the three-match series here on Friday.

Set to chase 183, Ireland amassed the total for the loss of five wickets and a ball to spare, at the back of a strong third-wicket partnership between Harry Tector and Balbirnie.

The home side, however, had a contrasting start to the pursuit as they lost their captain Paul Stirling and Lorcan Tucker inside the batting powerplay with just 27 runs on the board.

Balbirnie and Tector then pulled the hosts out of trouble with a sensible partnership.

The duo added 77 runs for the third wicket before Imad Wasim provided a much-needed breakthrough to Pakistan by dismissing Tector, who scored 36 off 27 deliveries.

Ireland’s batting mainstay Balbirnie was then involved in an important partnership with George Dockrell.

The 39-run partnership was dominated by Dockrell, who scored a blazing 24 off just 12 deliveries with the help of four boundaries including two sixes.

Balbirnie then put together a brief 24-run partnership with Gareth Delany before finally perishing in the penultimate over with the home side needing 16 off eight deliveries.

Andy Balbirnie top-scored for Ireland with 77 off 55 deliveries, peppered with 10 boundaries and two sixes.

Following his dismissal, Delany (10) and Curtis Campher (15) displayed nerves of steel and played match-winning cameos to guide Ireland to a historic victory.

Abbas Afridi took two wickets for Pakistan while Naseem Shah, Imad Wasim and Shaheen Shah Afridi picked one apiece.

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Put into bat first, Pakistan’s new opening pair of Mohammad Rizwan (1) and Saim Ayub failed to give them a steady start as the former got run out in the second over, courtesy of Herry Tector’s direct hit.

Following the early blow, Pakistan captain Babar Azam joined Saim in the middle and launched recovery.

The duo batted sensibly and added 85 runs for the second wicket until the left-handed opener faltered.

Saim fell rigorously short of his maiden T20I hundred and walked back in the 12th over after scoring a brisk 45. His 29-ball knock featured four boundaries and three sixes.

Babar switched gears after Saim’s dismissal and soon brought up his 38th T20I century in 39 deliveries.

He, however, failed to get going and miscued Craig Young’s short-pitched delivery to Mark Adair at long-on.

Babar Azam remained the top-scorer for Pakistan with a 43-ball 57 with the help of eight boundaries and a six.

Pakistan then lost two more wickets in quick succession as both Azam Khan and Shadab Khan fell for a duck and thus consequently slipped to 123/5 in 15.2 overs.

Coming out to bat at No.7, Iftikhar Ahmed launched the attack on Ireland’s bowlers and bolstered Pakistan’s total.

He smashed three boundaries and three sixes on his way to an unbeaten 37 off 15 deliveries.

Iftikhar also put together an important partnership with Fakhar Zaman, who scored a scratchy 20.

Craig Young spearheaded Ireland’s bowling charge with 2/27 in his four overs while Adair and Gareth Delany chipped in with a wicket apiece.

Pakistan and Ireland next face each other in the second T20I of the three-match series at the same venue on Sunday.

READ: Pakistan eye to “identify key players for T20 World Cup” in England series

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