BELFAST - Hazratullah Zazai smashed a blistering 74 as Afghanistan beat Ireland by 16 runs in the opening T20 international at Bready Cricket Club near Derry.
The tourists posted 160-7 batting first after rain had reduced the match to 18 overs a side. Ireland fell short on 144-9, as star spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman taking five wickets between them. Afghanistan will take a 1-0 lead into Wednesday's second match of the three-game series, as they look to deny fellow new Test nation Ireland revenge for being pipped to qualification for next year's World Cup.
"Zazai, that was his second game, we didn't know much about him. He seemed to hit to all parts," Irish captain Gary Wilson told the Cricket Ireland website. "But we came back really well -- after the start they got, that was a great positive. I thought the boys showed great character."
Opening batsman Zazai was playing just his second international match and first since December 2016, but the 20-year-old struck six sixes in a magnificent 33-ball innings. Afghanistan lost their way after he was caught behind off Simi Singh and Mohammad Shahzad was lazily run out.
AFGHANISTAN: 160-7 in 18 overs (Hazratullah Zazai 74, Joshua Little 2-20, Tyrone Kane 2-50)
IRELAND: 144-9 in 18 overs (Rashid Khan 3-35, Mujeeb Ur Rahman 2-14, Fareed Ahmad 2-29).