Andy Balbirnie’s career-best 145 not out anchored Ireland to a four-wicket victory over Afghanistan in the third one-day cricket international on Tuesday.
Balbirnie’s third ODI century off 136 balls, which featured eight sixes and eight fours, led Ireland to 260-6 with an over to spare in reply to Afghanistan’s 256-8.
The series was square at 1-1 with two games to go.
It was Ireland’s first victory on the tour after it lost the Twenty20 series 3-0 and the second ODI was abandoned last Saturday.
Balbirnie played all four Afghanistan spinners with ease, and together with George Dockrell (54), shared a match-winning, 143-run stand for the fifth wicket, after Ireland was in trouble at 73-4 in the 16th over.
“There was pressure,” Balbirnie said. “To get that win against these guys, it’s great for the team. You go and bat and dream of having that kind of a knock.”
Earlier, Najibullah Zadran smashed 104 off 98 balls and his maiden ODI hundred propelled Afghanistan’s total.
Captain Asghar Afghan (75) shared a century stand with Zadran, after Ireland reduced them to 74-5 in 19 overs.
“256 was good on this pitch,” Afghan said. “Balbirnie played very well and we lost mainly because of our fielding.”
On a pitch where the ball skidded early on, Afghanistan’s top order struggled against spin and seam.
Afghan and Najibullah led the recovery brilliantly until the captain holed out at fine leg while going for a pull shot against Boyd Rankin, who took 2-56.
Najibullah, who reached his half-century off 75 balls, dominated the last seven overs with some big shots. The left-hander got a life on 97 when Andy McBrine dropped a skier at point in the last over before he reached his hundred off the penultimate ball.
Ireland ran into early trouble when fast bowler Dawlat Zadran dismissed Paul Stirling and Simi Singh in his fourth over while Kevin O’Brien missed a low full toss of legspinner Samiullah Shinwari and holed out at mid-on on 21.
But Afghanistan held back its ace spinner Rashid Khan, which eased the pressure off Balbirnie and Dockrell as they kept their team in the hunt.
Afghanistan hit back briefly when Mohammad Nabi had Dockrell stumped, and Rashid got Stuart Poynter caught at deep mid-wicket.
But Balbirnie kept his nerves and brought the victory by smashing Dawlat over point for the winning boundary.
The fourth match will be on Friday with the last game scheduled for Sunday.