The Afghanistan cricket team have made giant strides in the game ever since they first featured on the big stage in the ICC World T20 in 2010 in the West Indies. The team has players like Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi who have dazzled on the world stage with their exploits. However, in the second Twenty20 International against Ireland played at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium in Dehra Dun, Afghanistan created history as they topped the Twenty20 charts in a brilliant exhibition of hitting which showed their prowess. Afghanistan were boosted by a brilliant knock of 162* from Hazratullah Zazai as they reached 278/3 and they managed to defeat Ireland by a massive margin of 84 runs to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
In the process, there were plenty of records broken. Afghanistan’s 278/3 is the highest Twenty20 International score by a country, breaking the previous record of 263/5 set by Australia against Sri Lanka in the 2016 encounter in Pallekele. This is the fourth time that Afghanistan has gone past 200 in Twenty20 Internationals. In addition to the score in Dehra Dun, Afghanistan smashed 233/8 against the same opposition in 2017 in Greater Noida. Afghanistan hit 215/6 against Zimbabwe in Sharjah in 2016 while their first 200+ score was against Scotland in Edinburgh in 2015.
The score of 278/3 would not have been possible without the efforts of Hazratullah Zazai, the 20-year-old batsman from Paktia. Zazai smashed 162* off just 62 balls and the knock included 11 fours and 16 sixes. His knock is the second-highest in the history of Twenty20 Internationals behind Australia’s Aaron Finch who smashed 172 against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2018. Overall, in Twenty20s, Zazai has the joint-third highest individual score, behind Chris Gayle’s 175 for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Pune Warriors in IPL 2013.
Finch’s 172 and Hamilton Masakadza’s 162* for Mountaineers against Eagles in Bulawayo in 2016 are the highest individual scores in this format. He notched up his century off just 42 balls, which is the third-fastest century in this format. David Miller and Rohit Sharma smashed centuries off just 35 balls against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in 2017.
Zazai’s tally of 16 sixes in an innings is the most by a batsman in the history of Twenty20s, going past Finch’s mark of 14 sixes which he set against England during his knock of 156 in 2013. In Twenty20s, he is level with Graham Napier of Essex and Dasun Shanaka of Sri Lanka. Gayle tops the charts when he smashed 18 and 17 sixes in an innings in the Bangladesh Premier League and Indian Premier League.
Zazai and Usman Ghani shared a 236-run stand for the first wicket and it is the best partnership for any wicket in this format. In Twenty20 Internationals, Zazai and Ghani overtook the record of 223 set by Finch and D’Arcy Short in the 2018 clash against Zimbabwe while in other T20s, the duo broke the 229-run stand stitched by Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers for RCB against Gujarat Lions in the 2016 IPL. Zazai’s 16 sixes helped Afghanistan smash 22 sixes in the innings, which is the most by a team in T20Is.
Ireland ended on 194 to lose by 84 runs but the match aggregate of 472 runs is the third-most in a T20I match, behind the 489 runs set by India and West Indies in the Lauderhill thriller in 2016 and Australia’s record-breaking chase of 245 against New Zealand in Auckland as the match saw 488 runs being scored.
Afghanistan will be hoping to sweep Ireland in the three-match T20I series, having won the first game by five wickets.