An outstanding maiden ODI century on debut from Rahmanullah Gurbaz led Afghanistan to victory over Ireland in the first of their three-match series in Abu Dhabi.
The opener hit 127 off as many deliveries as Afghanistan returned to the international stage for the first time since March 2020 to get their ICC Cricket World Cup Super League campaign off to a victorious start.
Career-best ODI performances of 5/29 with the ball for Andy McBrine and 83 with the bat Lorcan Tucker helped push Ireland close, but they weren’t enough to overcome a classy Afghanistan side.
Gurbaz and opening partner Javed Ahmadi built the foundations of Afghanistan’s innings with an opening stand of 120 before Irish spinner Andy McBrine took Ahmadi’s wicket on 38.
McBrine skittled his way through the Afghanistan top and middle-order, dismissing batters Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi and Gulbadin Naib each for single figures to push the Afghans from 120-0 to 161-5 in the space of 10 overs.
Gurbaz continued to be a sticking point for the Irish and a single off Kevin O’Brien’s bowling in the 35th over brought up his maiden century.
The 19-year-old added two more sixes to the seven he smashed to reach his century before he was caught at deep square-leg Gareth Delany’s bowling, leaving Afghanistan 198/6. Gurbaz’s nine sixes set broke the record for the most sixes hit by a man on ODI debut.
Following the fall of Azmatullah Omarzai’s wicket to Simi Singh, Najib Zadran and Rashid Khan pushed the run rate on, with Khan bringing up his half-century off just 27 deliveries before getting out on 55 to guide Afghanistan to 287/9 at the end of his innings.
Afghanistan kept a grip over Ireland’s run chase throughout. Right-arm quick Naveen-ul-Haq took two important early wickets, first trapping O’Brien lbw for one before deceiving Ireland skipper Andrew Balbirnie with a slower ball for 15.
Paul Stirling and Harry Tector built a 50-run partnership for the third wicket before both fell in quick succession, as Tector spooned a return catch to Gulbadin off another slower ball before Nabi pinned Stirling in front for 39.
Curtis Campher and Lorcan Tucker combined to put on 86 for the fifth wicket to help rebuild a stuttering innings before the former eventually fell lbw to Mujeeb Ur Rahman for 39.
Tucker kicked on to bring up a second career ODI half-century and raced past his previous career-best ODI score of 56; he eventually fell on 83, stumped trying to use his feet against Rashid as the asking rate climbed. As assured an innings it was, it wasn’t quite enough for Ireland as they eventually fell 16 runs short.
The second ODI will be played at the same venue on 24 January.
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