Ireland will attempt to make it a hat-trick of wins against Afghanistan today when they face their fiercest rivals in the third of the five-match series at Stormont.

After the thrilling penultimate ball victory on Tuesday, Ireland did not even need the last over yesterday as they went two-up in the series with George Dockrell again hitting the winning boundary.

This time his lofted drive to long-on cleared the fence to claim a five wickets victory in the grand manner, but it was the bowlers who put in the hard yards, restricting Afghanistan to 122 for eight, comfortably their lowest total against Ireland.

Visiting captain Mohammad Nabi admitted he had taken the wrong decision after he chose to bat on winning the toss, not expecting so much seam movement.

Ireland’s opening bowlers took full advantage with Josh Little finally rediscovering the form he showed at the back end of last season and Mark Adair removing both openers in the first three overs.

When Curtis Campher, who didn’t even bowl in the last two matches, made a third breakthrough before the end of the powerplay, Ireland had taken early control and they didn’t relinguish it.

Indeed, it got even better at the end, with the last five overs of the Afghanistan innings yielding 26 runs and two wickets.

The only downside was the bowling of seven wides — Afghanistan bowled only two — which could count in close matches, but with the arrival of Nathan Hauritz, the former Australia bowler who has been appointed as Ireland’s spin bowling coach, expect an improvement in that department going forward.

The first to benefit seems to be Gareth Delany’s leg spin, who has been the first slow bowler that Irelamd skipper Andrew Balbirnie has turned to in recent games and whose consistency has been rewarded with seven wickets in his last four matches.

“Bowling in the powerplay is really tough and we’ve done it over the last few weeks against some world class players and now they are getting their rewards and today was an outstanding effort,” said Balbirnie.

“Gareth’s leg spin is getting better and better, George didn’t bowl today and we know what he can do and Andy McBrine did a tidy job as well. Really happy with how the bowlers are going.”

Balbrinie has also found his form again, falling just four short of a second consecutive 50, and backed up by contributions from the dependable Lorcan Tucker and Dockrell, even the loss of two wickets in the 14th over, with 36 still wanted did not seriously affect Ireland’s charge to victory.

“You have to remind yourself you have done some good stuff in the past and you’re not a bad player,” said Balbirnie of his own form. “I’ve also had great support from the players and staff but we’re all in this together and we’re doing some good things.”

It is also noteworthy that Ireland are winning without significant scores from their one world-class batsman. Paul Stirling has now gone 16 T20 innings without a half-century, his longest ever run — he needed 15 innings to score his first back in 2010.

This time he seemed extra determined to build a big score, playing defensively to 10 of his first 11 balls — the other he stroked effortlessly and stylishly through the covers — but his caution proved his downfall when he stayed back and attempted to pull a full ball from Naveen ul haq and was bowled.

However, when Stirling goes early there is no longer any cause to panic with this Ireland batting line-up. It just means Tucker gets in to strut his stuff and, although he was not as expansive as in Tuesday’s opening game, he still scored at a run-a-ball, with just three fours, before he was holed out to deep mid-wicket.

The disappointment was not so much his exit but the timing of it, just five balls after Harry Tector had played exactly the same shot.

But no-one is batting better and with more confidence than Dockrell and he saw his side home despite losing
Campher, just 13 runs from the winning post.

Encouragingly after his run of low scores, Delany stayed with Dockrell to the end and, although it was only a five-ball innings, it will stand him and Ireland in good stead in the near future.

The next objective is to complete a series win and certainly no-one expected them to have a chance of doing it in the third match.

“We haven’t played too many five-game series, we haven’t won too many but we’ll rest up, have a swim in the pool and be ready to go again. We have the momentum and we need to make that count,” added a happy Ireland skipper.