Andy Balbirnie ended his run drought in Belfast last night and just as importantly led Ireland to their first win of the summer, with a nail-biting seven-wicket victory over Afghanistan in the opening clash of a five-match T20 international series.

Balbirnie, who has struggled for scores since his brilliant 60 against India at the end of June, made a top quality 51 from 38 balls, adding half-century partnerships with Paul Stirling and Lorcan Tucker as Ireland chased the visitors’ 168-7.

The under-pressure Ireland skipper had arrived at Stormont before his team-mates to squeeze in an extra net session and the batting practice paid off as he stroked five fours and a maximum to make his highest score on the ground.

Stirling crunched 31 from 29 balls, despite playing out a maiden in the powerplay, and Lorcan Tucker excelling with six fours and a six but Ireland still contrived to make things difficult against a side who have dominated them in recent T20s.

A tight 15th over from Mujeeb ur Rahman saw Balbirnie fail to clear deep mid-wicket and when Tucker departed in similar fashion for 50 from 32 balls at the end of the 18th over the Boys in Green still required 23, then 13 from the last.

Harry Tector eased the tension by lifting a slower ball over extra cover and George Dockrell ended Ireland’s sequence of 10 ‘home’ defeats with successive fours as victory was secured with a ball to spare.

“We’ve played well this summer without getting over the line, so this win is great,” Balbirnie said.

“When you're out of form, you can over-analyse, but I kept it simple. I watched the ball closely and I hope my form will continue. It's a lot more fun when you are scoring runs.”