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Stirling, Balbirnie keep Ireland in the race

Top-order collapse hurts Afghanistan as it falls well short despite a stellar batting effort from the lower-order batsmen
Ireland team celebrating

Ireland kept its hopes alive by hitting back with a win in the third of five One-Day Internationals against Afghanistan after having lost the first two games, when Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie hit big runs for a six-wicket win in Greater Noida on Sunday (March 19).

Chasing a challenging 265 to win, Ireland was rocked early in the chase after Dawlat Zadran dismissed Ed Joyce and William Porterfield cheaply. Stirling, with Niall O’Brien for company, put together a 96-run partnership for the third wicket to revive the innings before Samiullah Shenwari cleaned up O’Brien in the 28th over after he had scored 30 in 52 balls.

Stirling, after having hit 95 in the last match, fell short of a century again when he was bowled by Mohammad Nabi after scoring 99 in 114 balls with nine fours and a six, but his 59-run stand with Balbirnie before that was enough to take Ireland to the doorstep of victory.

Balbirnie, who walked in at the fall of Niall O’Brien’s wicket, was all aggression as he scored an unbeaten 85 in 74 balls. His whirlwind knock was studded with 11 fours and a six, and Gary Wilson chipped in with a run-a-ball 28 to chase down the target with nine balls to spare as Ireland finished on 265 for 4.

For Afghanistan, Dawlat finished with 2 for 52 while Nabi and Shenwari took a wicket apiece.

Earlier, Afghanistan was put on the back foot straightaway after it won the toss and opted to bat when a top-order collapse left it at 67 for 5 in the 18th over. Peter Chase accounted for Mohammad Shahzad and Noor Ali Zadran, while the wickets of Rahmat Shah, Asghar Stanikzai and Nabi were shared around.

But a counter-attack by the lower order, led by half-centuries from Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan and Shafiqullah, the No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 respectively, kept Afghanistan in the game.

Naib started the revival with 51 in 76 balls with four fours and two sixes, while Rashid (56 in 50, 4x4, 3x6) and Shafiqullah (50 not out in 28, 2x4, 4x6) hit quick runs to help Afghanistan post 264 for 8.

Chase (2 for 55) and Tim Murtagh (2 for 49) were the best of the Ireland bowlers, even though they ended up giving away 91 runs in the last ten overs.

The fourth ODI will take place at the same venue on Wednesday.

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