Ireland successfully defended their World Twenty20 Qualifiers title with a thumping 68-run victory over Afghanistan in final at Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Powered by the blistering half-centuries from Paul Stirling (76 off 43) and Trent Johnston (64 off 32), Ireland managed a colossal total of 225 and restricted the Afghanistan to 157.
Both teams have already sealed the berths in ICC World Twenty20 2014, scheduled in Bangladesh, along with Nepal, UAE, Hong Kong and Netherlands.
Ireland had been in exceptional form throughout the tournament as they won six of their seven group games before overpowering hosts UAE in semi-final.
Electing to bat, Ireland persevered with their aggressive approach in the final, with Stirling pulling paceman Shapoor Zadran for a boundary off the fourth ball of the innings and smashing the next delivery for six over thirdman.
Stiriling was ably supported by his skipper William Porterfield (27 off 14), who also lashed the ball past fence at regular intervals as Ireland galloped to 68 inside six overs before Hamza Hotak uprooted the stumps of skipper to give Afghanistan the first and much-crucial breakthrough.
The dismissal of skipper, however’ didn’t slow Ireland as new batsman Kevin O’Brien got off to the mark with two successive boundaries before smacking a hefty blow over long-on on the next delivery as Ireland surpassed 100-run mark in 8.3 overs.
O’Brien fall prey off Karim Sadiq after 12-ball 20, but Stirling continued to bash the Afghan bowlers in the company of Johnston. The two batsmen plundered 64 off 32 balls before former holed out to Mohammad Nabi off Hotak in the 15th over. His blistering vigil was studded with eight boundaries and four sixes.
Towards the end, Johnson turned more belligerent and hit flamboyant shots to take Ireland past 200-mark before eventually being dismissed off Zadran for 62. His knock featured five boundaries and four sixes.
Afghanistan began the daunting chase vigorously as Mohammad Shahzad (38 off 18) Nawroz Mangal (14) put on 36 in 3.2 overs before latter was bowled by George Dockrell.
Afghanistan attempted to preserve the high run-rate, however, their progress had been stalled by the wickets at regular wickets.
Gulbadin Nabi injected the drama the lop-sided contest by hitting a brisk 43 off 19 balls. However, he failed to get support from the other. Johnston ended Nabi’s resistance before accounting for Samiullah Shenwari and Najibullah Zadran to take Ireland at verge of victory.
Seamer Murtagh uprooted the stumps of Shapoor Zadran to seal the title.