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After leveling the series with a three-wicket victory, Ireland would draw inspiration from their Sharjah triumph last year and look to make it another come-from-behind series win against Afghanistan when they take on the visitors in the third and final ODI at Belfast on Friday (August 31).
Playing an ODI for the first time since securing their berth in the 2019 World Cup, Afghanistan extended their winning streak in the format to six games by defending a sub-par 227 in the series opener. However, Ireland hit back in the subsequent game. Tim Murtagh’s opening burst had the tourists reeling at 16 for 4 before eventually being restricted to only 182 from their allotted overs. The home side then chased down the target riding on the back of Andrew Balbirnie’s second consecutive fifty and a patient knock of 36 not out from Simi Singh.
For Afghanistan, who do not have many ODI opportunities lined up before the World Cup, its more than just a series decider. The men at the top of their batting order still remain an area of concern. Hazratullah Zazai has disappointed in two successive games while his opening partner, the young Ihsanullah Janat, lost his spot to Mohammad Shahzad after failing in the series opener. Albeit guilty of not always making their starts count, the middle-order though has held the batting together in bowler-friendly conditions.
Afghanistan bowlers, though, have hardly put a foot wrong. The biggest strength has been the spin troika of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman that has sustained their domination over the Irish batsmen and have together accounted for 11 of the 17 wickets across the two games.
For Ireland – who lost out on a World Cup spot earlier this year – a series win here will be a vindication of the fact that they belong to big boys’ club. They showed the determination in Game 2 by putting up a slightly better batting show after pinned down to 198 in a modest chase previously. However, the lack of runs from the bat of their experienced skipper William Porterfield and the O’Brien brothers would be bothering the hosts. For a sub-200 run chase Ireland consumed nearly 44 overs, largely due to the fact that they kept losing wickets at regular intervals.
While the bowling efforts put the two teams at par, it might be how the batting order adapts that decides the winner on Friday.
When: Third ODI on August 31 at 9:45am GMT, 10:45am Local
Where: Civil Service Cricket Club, Belfast
What to expect: Partly cloudy skies on match day. The pitch has been on the slower side so far, offering plenty to the bowlers.
Ireland: It remains to be seen if Ireland make any changes to their wining combination for the series decider, and hence teenage left-arm pacer Josh Little, who replaced injured David Delany, could have to wait longer for his ODI debut.
Afghanistan: An ODI debut might be on the cards for young pacer Wafadar, even though the bigger issue is the batting for the visitors.
Ireland (From): William Porterfield(c), Paul Stirling, Andrew Balbirnie, Niall O Brien(w), Kevin O Brien, Simi Singh, Gary Wilson, Andy McBrine, Tim Murtagh, Boyd Rankin, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, James Shannon, David Delany
Afghanistan (From): Mohammad Shahzad(w), Hazratullah Zazai, Gulbadin Naib, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan(c), Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah Shafiq, Ihsanullah Janat, Dawlat Zadran, Sayed Shirzad, Wafadar, Javed Ahmadi
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Posted By ‘Mi Lu’