George Dockrell’s golden summer continued with a first T20 international half-century but it wasn’t enough to prevent Ireland falling to defeat in the third game of the five-match series against Afghanistan at Stormont.

Dockrell was there at the finish for the third successive match but this time he had only one partner left and Ireland were 22 runs short of Afghanistan’s imposing 189 for five. But it was still much closer than anyone expected halfway through the Ireland reply.

When the umpires called for drinks on another sweltering hot day in Belfast, Ireland were 65 for six and three overs later they were 85 for seven and everyone was planning for an early finish. Everyone except Dockrell and Ireland debutant Fionn Hand.

The Clontarf seam bowler had been brought in as a straight replacement for Barry McCarthy as Ireland made their first change in personnel in five matches – Waringstown’s Graham Hume also came in for Andy McBrine – and he had already made an impressive first appearance with the wicket of big-hitting opener Hazratullah Zazai and taken the catch to end the innings of Naibullah after a whirlwind 42 from 18 balls.

But his day wasn’t over as he hit his sixth, eight and ninth balls in international cricket, off Afghanistan skipper Mohammad Nabi o the boundary and he never looked back.

When he was eventually out, eight balls from the finish, he was a new world record holder, his 36 the highest score by a number nine on his T20 debut; he hit four fours and two sixes.

Hand’s partnership with Dockrell was 74, from 38 balls, an Ireland record for the eighth wicket and put Ireland tantalising within touching distance.

The margin could actually have been closer but Dockrell, determined to keep the strike in the last over turned down four singles after Hume was run out going for a second run to the last ball of the 19th over.

The damage was done, however, in the first six over. They say your win percentage dips violently if you lose three wickets in the powerplay – Ireland lost four and they included their top three batsmen.

Paul Stirling hit his second ball straight to cover, Andrew Balbirnie his fifth to backward point and Harry Tector also survived only four balls before a loose shot ended in the wicket-keeper’s gloves.

Lorcan Tucker, again, led the fightback but he holed out to deep mid-wicket and Gareth Delany followed in the next over from the same shot. Despite the late heroics, Ireland were always too many runs behind, as Balbirnie admitted.

“Losing early wickets chasing a total like you are really up against and we were always on the back foot from then on,” said the captain. “It was pleasing from our point of view at the back end to get close – that’s a positive.

“George has been in fantastic form and is a really important player for us in all formats. He hits the ball so hard and gives us that power at the back end. He is going from strength to strength.

“Fionn makes things happen with bat and ball. He has great energy around the group and Humey has been knocking on the door for a long time in interprovincial cricket. It’s never easy to bowl in T20 cricket but both did very well today.”

Hume is still waiting for his first international wicket and his figures were spoilt by his last two balls which were both hit for six by Najibullah. But he is in good company in this series at least. Rashid Khan, still the world’s number three ranked bowler in T20s, has now played three matches and has aggregate figures of 0 for 95.

Afghanistan also made one change to their team yesterday with Zazai, having recovered from a chest infection, taking his place at the top of the order and he immediately put the Ireland bowlers under pressure.

Memories of his phenomenal 162 not out in Greater Noida still haunt the players from that game, although, to his credit, Josh Little, one of the survivors, conceded just 11 runs from his first two overs and when he returned for a second spell the left armer broke the first wicket stand of 90, having Rahmanullah Gurbaz caught off the top edge at thirdman.

The biggest mystery of the day, however, was the choice of man of the match. It was given to Gurbaz, presumably for being the winning team’s top scorer but it looked impossible to ignore Najibullah’s contribution which took the game away from Ireland and, just for good measure, his safe hands also caught Campher and Delany.

The remaining two games are back at Stormont on Monday and Wednesday.