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Afghanistan come back from the brink to qualify for CWC19

On-song Afghanistan amp up World Cup preparations

Afg v Ire, 1st ODI, preview

Having wrapped up a 3-0 sweep in the Twenty20 Internationals, Afghanistan will use the one-day internationals against Ireland to get their ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 plans in place.

Overview

Afghanistan v Ireland
1st ODI
Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Dehradun
Thursday, 28 February, 1:00pm local, 7:30am GMT

Afghanistan made quite the statement in their T20I series against Ireland: they posted the highest ever T20 total, Hazratullah Zazai struck a record 16 sixes in his 162*, Rashid Khan took four wickets in four balls. As impressive was their ability to come through under pressure of falling wickets and build partnerships. Now, in the ODI series, with the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 less than 100 days away, they'll want to send out a reminder to the other nine teams that they are a threat in the 50-over format.   

First, though, they might have to shake off some rust. Both Afghanistan and Ireland have not played ODIs in five months or so – Ireland's last assignment was at home against Afghanistan, while the Asian side impressed in the Asia Cup. 

Afghanistan have named a massive 21-member squad for the ODIs, so will likely change their combinations a fair bit for a last round of auditions before the World Cup. While their spin attack is mostly settled, they may want to take a closer look at their pace bowling options.   

Video cwc19 23 Mar 18
Paul Stirling's 55 v Afghanistan at CWCQ

Ireland, much to their disappointment, did not qualify for the big tournament in England and Wales. They were outplayed in the T20Is, but will take confidence in the fact that the ODI format suits them better. William Porterfield is back to lead the side, and is one of the five changes to the squad. The new additions have spent the last week getting used to the conditions, and will be fresh for the match.

Ireland have five spin options, giving an idea of where they think the match will be won and lost, but Porterfield insisted the seamers would play a role as well. "We beat them in Sharjah [last year] with our seamers taking eight or nine wickets a game. So, I think you can’t rule the seamers out, but having those spin options in your side is a good thing,” he said.

Ireland batsmen have found it tough against spin, with Mohammad Nabi and Rashid again effective against them. It will be up to the experienced batsmen to find a way to score against them. "It’s no secret that anytime we’ve beaten Afghanistan we’ve negated their spin, and if we can do that over the next five games then we can be successful,” Porterfield agreed.

Player to watch:

Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan): The wicket-keeper and opening batsman was left out of the T20Is, where another opener in Zazai stole the show. He will be keen to offer a reminder that he's the original big-hitting opener for Afghanistan. If the duo combines at the top, expect fireworks.

Kevin O'Brien (Ireland): A move to the top of the order worked well for the all-rounder, who found himself among the runs. He is set to move back to the middle in the ODIs, and his team will look to him to counter spin in the middle overs. 

Video cwc19 23 Mar 18
WATCH: Highlights of Afghanistan's chase

Conditions:
It rained in Dehradun on Wednesday, but clear weather and cool temperatures, with a high of 17°C, are expected on match-day. The stadium has offered a run-fest in the T20Is, but the squares are expected to dry out over the course of the series, with spin beginning to play a bigger role. 

Afghanistan: Asghar Afghan (c), Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Javed Ahmadi, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Ali Khil, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Rashid Khan, Karim Janat, Gulbadin Naib, Aftab Alam, Dawlat, Zahir Khan, Farid Malik, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Shapoor Zadran, Sayed Shirzad

Ireland: William Porterfield (c), Andrew Balbirnie, James Cameron-Dow, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O’Brien, Stuart Poynter, Boyd Rankin, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Lorcan Tucker

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