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Dublin: 1°C Thursday 6 May 2021

Ireland hit stumbling block as they lose to Afghanistan for first time in five years

Phil Simmons’ side need to beat Scotland on Monday to win the Dubai Tri-series.

Paul Stirling made 36 but fell to Hamid Hassan.
Paul Stirling made 36 but fell to Hamid Hassan.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

IRELAND SUFFERED THEIR first defeat to Associate rivals Afghanistan in five years as concerns over the form of their undercooked batsmen heightened with just a few weeks to go until the start of the World Cup.

Phil Simmons’ side had won their opening two games of this Dubai Triangular series but half-centuries from Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien against today’s opponents and Scotland had masked the collective defects in two low-scoring encounters earlier this week.

After Afghanistan had posted 246/9 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium – the highest score of the tournament so far – it was always going to be a testing run chase for Ireland this morning.

However, Paul Stirling’s early fireworks apart, this was another worrying display with the bat in what seemed like bountiful conditions. In the end, Ireland were bowled out for 175 as they slipped to a 71-run reversal.

A win would have handed Ireland the trophy as well as acting as another stepping stone ahead of February’s World Cup but a humbling defeat is a reminder of the work that still needs to be done between now and next month.

Yet, the form of the bowlers has been encouraging.

Craig Young once again impressed as he took three wickets, including both openers after William Porterfield had elected to field first for the third successive game.

But, Najibullah Zadran scored a maiden ODI fifty to add some impetus to an innings that threatened to run out of steam in the face of Ireland’s dogged endeavours in the field.

Zadran cut loose in the final few overs as Afghanistan bludgeoned 52 runs in just three overs with Alex Cusack and George Dockrell on the receiving end of some meaty blows.

His innings shifted the momentum and was ultimately decisive.

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Ireland’s chase was once again undermined by regular wickets as Porterfield, Joyce, Niall O’Brien and Gary Wilson all departed after building themselves a platform.

Stirling provided some encouragement with a typically aggressive innings, which included six boundaries, but as is so often the case, he failed to kick-on and construct a big innings.

Ireland’s failure to build significant partnerships so far in this series has been the most disconcerting element, particularity given the fact this World Cup is widely expected to be one in which bat will dominate ball.

Phil Simmons’ side are next in action on Monday when they face Scotland in the final game of the preparatory series.

At Dubai International Cricket Stadium

Afghanistan 246/9 (50 overs, Najibullah Zadran 83, Samiullah Shenwari 50, Ashgar Stanikzai 44, Craig Young 3-45, Kevin O’Brien 3-49)

Ireland 175 all out (43.3 overs, Paul Stirling 36, Niall O’Brien 33, Ed Joyce 21, Kevin O’Brien 21, Gary Wilson 20, John Mooney 36, Paul Stirling 28, Gary Wilson 21, Hamid Hassan 3-24, Aftab Alam 2-31, Mirwais Ashraf 2-43)

Afghanistan won by 71 runs.

- Originally published at 4pm

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