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New year, same problems: Ireland's T20 shortcomings exposed in desert defeat

There is serious work to be done by John Bracewell and his squad after a rather inauspicious start to the year today.

Paul Stirling top scored for Ireland.
Paul Stirling top scored for Ireland.
Image: Cricket Ireland

A HUGELY SIGNIFICANT, and potentially defining, year for this generation of Irish cricketers began in the most disappointing and underwhelming fashion possible today as Afghanistan strolled to a five-wicket victory in Abu Dhabi.

The shortest format of the game has always been Ireland’s weakest but there was hope, with a slightly more dynamic and adventurous squad named for this Desert T20 tournament, that the New Year would bring a change in fortune and a shift in initiative.

But today’s defeat, to a country seriously threatening Ireland’s status as Associate kingpins, only highlighted the fact that John Bracewell’s side are being left behind in this format.

Granted, it is the first game of the year and this is still technically off-season for Ireland who have only returning to outdoor cricket in the last 10 days, but the problems which blighted last year’s miserable World Twenty20 campaign are still evidently clear.

And most of it comes from a lack of aggression and ingenuity in the batting department.

Batting first, Ireland could only post 125-6 from their 20 overs and the chase was a stroll in the park for Afghanistan.

Paul Stirling, as he so often does, gave Ireland a solid platform with a run-a-ball 25 but those around him floundered with similar or worse strike-rates.

Afghanistan’s spinners seized control in the middle orders, stifled Ireland and Gary Wilson was the only other batsman to pass 20. Little surprise, then, that there wasn’t a six in the innings.

Conversely, Mohammed Nabi struck two maximums towards the death to secure the victory for his side with eight balls remaining.

This new tournament, featuring eight Associate sides, is designed to give Ireland an opportunity to play competitive games without the pressures of qualification or ranking points.

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It was an inauspicious start and now William Porterfield and his side face a must-win game against Namibia at the same venue on Tuesday.

IRELAND 125/6 (20 overs; P Stirling 25, G Wilson 23, S Poynter 18, Amir Hamza 2-21, Rashid Khan 2-22, Mohammed Nabi 2-27)

AFGHANISTAN 126/5 (18.4 overs; Najibullah Tarakai 31, Mohammed Shehzad 29, Mohammed Nabi 26*, J Mulder 2-23)

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