Ireland captain William Porterfield expressed confidence going into the one-day international series against Afghanistan, but asked his batsmen to be wary of Rashid Khan.
Ireland and Afghanistan are familiar rivals. Since 2016, they have faced each other in three bilateral series across Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and India. While Afghanistan have been dominant in the shortest format, there's been little to choose between the sides in the 50-over format.
Ahead of the upcoming three-match series, Porterfield is confident that with home conditions aiding them, his side will be very competitive despite losing the three-match Twenty20 International series 2-0.
"The last few series we've had have been determined by one game either way. They've been very close, the last time it was 3-2, Noida was 3-2 and Sharjah was 3-1 ... going both ways. It's always been competitive challenges, so I don't expect this to be any different," Porterfield said.
"The longer format (ODIs) has suited us over the last couple of years. We haven't been able to put it together in T20, but in the longer format we've got it right.
"We're confident in this format. In our own conditions we can come out on top. The important thing for us is to start the series well. The last three series we've come out on the wrong side of the first game. So if we can hit the ground running, it makes the rest of the week a lot easier."
The last time the sides faced off was at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, which ended in heartbreak for Ireland as they went down by five wickets to miss out on the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Rashid Khan, the leg-spinner, was the star for Afghanistan in that clash, taking 3/40 in 10 overs.
Can Ireland forget about the T20I series and change their fortune in the ODIs? 🇮🇪🇦🇫The first game in the three-match series commences on Monday 27 August. #IREvAFG— ICC (@ICC) August 26, 2018
Preview 👇https://t.co/8h00Mepdhd pic.twitter.com/CnGORyeMLE
Khan, No.1 and No.2 in T20Is and ODIs respectively on the MRF Tyres ICC Player Rankings for bowlers, has been the tormentor-in-chief for Ireland. Porterfield went to the extent of suggesting that Ireland will come out on top if they tackled him well.
"If we minimise the wickets we concede to him in the top seven, that's when we'll come out on top, and we know that as a squad," Porterfield said. "He's a very good bowler, he's ranked No.1 in the world for a reason. He's right up there in both formats."
"The more you play against someone the more you get to deal (with them), you’ve got to evolve your game and play him well, just as he keeps looking to evolve his.
"If, come the end, he hasn’t had a successful week in the end column, then I think we will have had a successful week.
"The top order has to perform, it’s our job to put a total on the board. If you expose the tail to Rashid he’s going to have one over on them, but if we minimise the wickets he gets in that top seven then a lot of games we’ll come out on top."
Porterfield noted that the Irish bowlers too had found success against Afghanistan. "As much as Rashid has had success against us in their conditions, our seamers have done well against their batters in their conditions. When you come here, you expect the seamers to get a bit more assistance. Hopefully they can continue the work they've been doing as well," he said.
On another note, Porterfield hasn't forgotten the heartbreak of missing out on a World Cup berth, but he's pleased that Ireland will now be playing a lot more cricket on a more regular basis.
"We've missed out on this World Cup, but we're starting to play a lot more fixtures, a lot more bilateral series and I think that's the thing we've lacked between World Cups. Obviously not being in the World Cup is a blow, but we have a lot more cricket to be played, so that's one positive. The more games we get, the better it's going to be for Irish cricket," he said.