ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, CMC – Veteran Trent Johnston starred with bat and ball as Ireland overpowered Afghanistan to win Saturday’s ICC World Cup Twenty20 qualifying tournament by 68 runs at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
It was the teams’ third meeting in the final in successive years, Ireland having won last year after Afghanistan triumphed the time before.
Man of the match Johnston, 39, who was born in New South Wales, Australia, scored a half-century in Ireland’s formidable 225-7 – the fourth highest-total in T20 history – and then snapped up three wickets as Afghanistan were dismissed for 157 with seven balls remaining after a flying start to their reply.
Ireland opener Paul Stirling, who was man of the man in last year’s final with 79 from 38 balls, was again in destructive mood on Saturday. He top-scored with 76 from 43 balls, including eight fours and four sixes, adding 68 for the first wicket with skipper William Porterfield (27 from 14 balls).
Johnston, promoted to number four, then hammered five fours and four sixes in his 62 off 32 balls to ram home Ireland’s advantage after they won the toss and batted first as they have in every match in the tournament.
Stirling and Johnston added 64 for the third wicket, left-arm slow bowler Hamza Hotak leading the Afghan attack with 3-39 from four overs.
In reply, Afghanistan clubbed 14 runs off the first three balls of their innings and raced to 36-0 off three overs before slow bowler George Dockrell (2-37) slowed the onslaught with wickets in each of his first two overs, including dangerous opener Mohammad Shahzad for 38 off 18 balls.
Number six Gulbadin Naib weighed in with 43 before he became one of Johnston’s victims in his 3-34 from four overs, including a maiden.
Meanwhile, Nepal secured third place by beating United Arab Emirates by five wickets with four balls to spare.
Sharad Vesawakar clinched victory by hitting Shadeep Silva, whose first three overs had cost only 10 runs, for successive sixes at the start of the final over.
Vesawkar finished on 43 not out from 29 balls as Nepal eased to 133-5.
Earlier, left-arm slow bowler Basant Regmi claimed 4-16 to help restrict UAE to 131-5.
The top six teams in the tournament — Ireland, Afghanistan, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and the Netherlands — will join the ICC’s 10 full members in next year’s World Cup proper in Bangladesh.