Afghanistan triumphed in the rain-affected fourth T20I by 27 runs to set up a series-deciding match on Wednesday.
In an 11-overs-a-side contest, the tourists put up a monumental total of 132-6 after hard-hitting knocks from Najibullah Zadran (50 off 24) and Rashid Khan (31 off 10). In response Ireland lost regular wickets as Fareed Ahmad starred with figures of 3-14, with the hosts bowled out for 105 from the final ball of the innings.
Rain meant a delayed start, with the match beginning at 17:30 local time, two hours after the scheduled start.
Ireland won the toss and chose to bowl first but it was Afghanistan who took the early initiative; Rahmanullah Gurbaz hooked a six to make it 17 runs off the opening over, bowled by Josh Little. Gurbaz smashed 24 off 13, eventually perishing in the third over when he gifted Mark Adair with a catch at short fine-leg off the bowling of Barry McCarthy.
The dismissal prompted a stumble from Afghanistan’s top order; Gareth Delany then struck with his first two balls of the day as the batting side went from 37-0 to 38-3 in the space of five deliveries. Fionn Hand then accounted for Mohammad Nabi in the fifth over, with the Afghanistan captain finding Andrew Balbirnie at cover for 5.
But Afghanistan recovered well from 55-4, led by Najibullah, who followed up his 18-ball 42 from the previous T20I with another sparkling knock. His 24-ball stay saw him strike four fours and three sixes, and Rashid joined in on the fun too, smashing three sixes in an effective cameo.
For Ireland leg-spinner Delany finished with his career-best figures, his three overs resulting in a haul of 3-33.
Like Afghanistan, Ireland had a brief but blistering opening stand. A Paul Stirling cover drive got the innings moving from ball one, and Balbirnie went four, four, six in the second over as Ireland moved to 28-0 after nine deliveries.
But Balbirnie fell for 15 from the 10th ball of the innings, and the losses of Stirling and Lorcan Tucker a couple of overs later left Ireland in serious trouble.
Harry Tector got a start but was Fareed’s third of the day. Ireland, in the end, were in debt to the in-form George Dockrell in ensuring they reached three figures. Having hit his first T20I half-century in the previous T20I, Ireland’s No.5 smashed 41 off just 27 deliveries, his knock including four fours and two sixes.
He couldn’t find support from elsewhere, however, with no one in Ireland’s bottom six able to cross 3.
Rashid completed a Player-of-the-Match performance with figures of 2-21, helping level the series at 2-2. The two sides will now contest a decider in the fifth and final T20I on Wednesday.
132-6 (11 overs; N Zadran 50, R Khan 31*; G Delany 3-33)
105 (11 overs; G Dockrell 41*; F Malik 3-14, R Khan 2-21)
Afghanistan won by 27 runs