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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 19 December, 2018

Another calamitous display as Ireland ripped apart by 16-year-old spinner

Ireland slumped to another heavy defeat to Afghanistan this afternoon.

Image: David Davies

IF IRELAND’S NEW head coach Graham Ford wasn’t fully aware of the size of the task facing him, he may have questioned why he took the job on in the first place while watching his side routinely capitulate this afternoon.

It was all rather inevitable as Ireland slumped to a 138 run defeat to Afghanistan in the first ODI between the sides, a result and performance which serves to highlight how far this team has fallen in the space of two years.

Off-spinner Mujeeb Zadran became the first international male cricketer born in the 21st century as he took four wickets and ripped through the Ireland middle order, as they were bowled out for just 100 in pursuit of Afghanistan’s chase-able total of 238.

Afghanistan’s biggest win over Ireland gives them a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, with the remaining matches also in Sharjah on 7 and 10 December. On this evidence, they’re unlikely to make for pretty viewing.

But it’s not entirely surprising. Irish cricket now finds itself in a deep nadir and while the prospect of Test cricket next year and ascension to full membership of the ICC papers over the cracks, the results are laying everything bare.

Don’t believe the hype about the academy, or the brouhaha about the young talent coming through the underage systems, or the fact Ireland’s U19s have qualified for next year’s World Cup — if there were players with enough potential we would have seen them at senior international level by now.

Just look at Mujeeb, brought into the Afghanistan side for this series after taking 20 wickets in five matches to help his country win the Under-19 Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur last month, as the point in case.

If they’re good enough, they’re old enough and granted there is an argument to suggest John Bracewell and, to a certain degree, Phil Simmons, didn’t give youth a chance, there is a very good reason for that.

That debate is for another day and it’s sad to think there are no immediate solutions to the dearth of talent and disintegration of the golden generation of players, but that is now the reality. How many days like today will it take for those still trumpeting participation figures and long-term plans to realise just how bleak the immediate future is?

Skipper William Porterfield (35), Stuart Poynter (27 not out) and George Dockrell (ten) were the only batsmen to reach double figures in Ireland’s lowest total against Afghanistan.

Their previous lowest was 150 at Belfast in 2016 and their previous heaviest defeat against Afghanistan was by 71 runs in Dublin in 2015. Rising star Rashid Khan, 19, took 3-28 with his leg-spin, having also struck a 49-ball 48.

Afghanistan, sent in to bat, made 238-9 with Nasir Jamal scoring 53 and Rahmat Shah an even 50. The big-hitting Shafiqullah Shafiq smashed a 23-ball 36 with three sixes after coming in at number nine.

Boyd Rankin (4-44) and Tim Murtagh (3-28) were the pick of the Ireland attack, while Kevin O’Brien took 1-50 to become the first Irish bowler to reach 100 ODI wickets.

One offs are acceptable — part and parcel of professional sport — but when defeats and performances like this have become the norm, it’s high time changes are made; Ford may just be scratching his head wondering what he’s got himself in for.

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Ryan Bailey

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