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Sparkling Joyce ton helps Ireland finish 2-2

His second hundred of the series lifts home side to 265 for 5 before it ends Afghanistan's middle-order resistance for 12-run win

Sparkling Joyce ton helps Ireland finish 2-2 - Cricket News
Ed Joyce scored an unbeaten career-best 148-ball 160.
Ed Joyce hammered his second century of the five-match One-Day International series to give Ireland a series-levelling 12-run victory against Afghanistan on Tuesday (July 19) in the final ODI at the Civil Service Cricket Club in Belfast. 

Of Ireland's 265 for 5, Joyce scored an unbeaten career-best 148-ball 160 while Gary Wilson supported him with a 92-ball 58. Only one other batsmen, Stuart Poynter (12 not out), made it to double digits. 

Afghanistan then lost early wickets but did well to stay in the chase for as long as it did, thanks largely to the 93-run stand for the seventh wicket between Najibullah Zadran and Rashid Khan. Najibullah scored a 66-ball 54 and Rashid a 32-ball 40, but they left it a little too late, the visiting side ending at 253 for 9.  

Put in, the Irish batsmen didn’t really shoot off the blocks. William Porterfield, the captain, has struggled in the series so far, and fell to Mirwais Ashraf’s medium pace in just the fifth over, having scored a 20-ball 8. 

Joyce was unperturbed and hammered fours off Ashraf but he lost a second partner when Sean Terry returned a catch to Yamin Ahmadzai, the offspinner, and Ireland was 44 for 2 within ten overs. But things didn't go Afghanistan's way after that. 

For full scorecard of the match, click here.

Wilson, promoted to No. 4, was happy to knock it around, and that suited Joyce just fine. The two rotated strike and kept the scoreboard moving. Neither shied away from swinging their arms when given width, and soon Joyce brought up his half-century, off 70 balls.

The two had added 134 for the third wicket, at a healthy run-rate of 4.36, when with ten overs to go, Dawlat Zadran, the paceman, was brought back on. He had an immediate impact as Wilson holed out, and that prompted a slide. Kevin O’Brien – in his 100th match for Ireland – and Paul Stirling lasted six and four balls respectively and it seemed Ireland’s promising innings would end with a whimper.

However, Joyce had other ideas. He farmed the strike and brought up his century in style with a six off Dawlat in 119 balls. He further troubled Dawlat, taking 15 runs in his next over. Yamin was also lifted for a couple of sixes, while Rashid Khan went for consecutive fours, as Joyce helped Ireland add 63 runs in the last five overs.

It proved just about enough. Afghanistan was 27 for 3 as all of Mohammad Shahzad (7), Javed Ahmadi (3) and Gulbadin Naib (2) were dismissed for single figures. It meant the middle order was under immense pressure.

Rahmat Shah and Asghar Stanikzai attempted to grind things out. They added a steady 37 for the fourth wicket before Rahmat was trapped in front by O’Brien. Nabi and Stanikzai were involved in another brief partnership of 35 before Stanikzai (32) was dismissed by Barry McCarthy. Nabi didn’t last long thereafter. At 119 for 6, the result seemed routine for Ireland.

But in Rashid, the 17-year-old who hammered an unbeaten 60 and picked up a four-wicket haul in the previous ODI, Afghanistan had hope. Najibullah provided company as the two resisted. Ireland’s frustration gave way to genuine fear as the duo found the fence regularly.

However, three wickets in as many balls in the death sealed Afghanistan’s fate. First, Rashid holed out off Stirling in the final ball of the 46th over. O’Brien then had Ashraf dismissed for a golden duck and Najibullah found a fielder off the very next ball. Dawlat’s late cameo, a 15-ball unbeaten 31, took Afghanistan within touching distance but it wasn’t to be.   

The series thus ended 2-2 after the first game was washed out.  

For full scorecard of the match, click here.

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