The good work of Mohammad Shahzad and Najibullah Zadran with the bat was backed up by an excellent show led by the spinners as Afghanistan won by 39 runs over Ireland in the second fixture of the five-match One-Day International series, played in Stormont, Belfast, on Tuesday (July 12).
Put in, Afghanistan rode on half-centuries from Shahzad and Najibullah to reach 250 before being bowled out in the final over, but it then stopped Ireland at 211 in 48.2 overs, with Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, the frontline spinners, picking up three wickets apiece.
The result, after the first game was washed out altogether, gave Afghanistan a 1-0 lead.
Ireland started extremely well, with William Porterfield and Ed Joyce putting together 71 runs for the first wicket. After Porterfield was bowled by Nabi for 25, Joyce and John Anderson added a further 43 for the second.
Joyce went on to get a half-century, but things started changing once he was dismissed by Mirwais Ashraf after scoring 62 in 87 balls to leave Ireland at 114 for 2. Stuart Poynter was sent back by Ashraf first ball, and Anderson, though he stuck it out, couldn't up the scoring rate. It took Kevin O’Brien, who had turned in a four-for in the Afghanistan innings, to provide the innings with some impetus, as he scored 35 in 23 balls, running his singles and twos well and hitting just one six – and no fours – along the way.
But Rashid accounted for Anderson after a 55-ball 26 – of which 24 runs came in fours and sixes – and O’Brien soon after to swing the match Afghanistan’s way. The visiting side consolidated its position further with the wickets of Paul Stirling and Andy McBrine. That left Ireland at 195 for 7, with quite a little too much to do. The end came when Dawlat Zadran got Barry McCarthy and Tim Murtagh in successive overs.
Nabi, who opened the bowling, ended with 3 for 45, while Rashid had 3 for 28; Ashraf returned 2 for 40 and Dawlat 2 for 29.
Earlier, the first half of Afghanistan’s innings was about Shahzad and the second about Najibullah, whose half-centuries linked a number of decent supporting acts.
It started well for Afghanistan as Shahzad and Javed Ahmadi strung together a 76-run stand, with Shahzad very much the more enterprising of the two. Ahmadi scored 29 in 43 balls before becoming O’Brien’s first victim. Shahzad then had one more good stand, with Rahmat Shah (14 in 26 balls) as he went past his half-century before O’Brien struck again, sending Shahzad back for a 79-ball 66.
A couple of wickets fell quickly after that, O’Brien getting his third in the form of Asghar Stanikzai, the captain, but Samiullah Shenwari held up one end for a while with a 25-ball 24 before Najibullah took charge. Even as wickets fell around him, and O’Brien completed his haul with the scalp of Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah hit six fours and two sixes on his way to 59 in 61 balls.
His wicket, in the 44th over, brought Barry McCarthy well and truly into the game, and McCarthy then struck in each of his remaining overs – the 46th, 48th and 50th of the innings – to end with 4 for 59. O’Brien returned 4 for 45.
The series continues with the third face-off at the same venue on Thursday.