William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, was all praise for Tim Murtagh after the pacer's 4/30 helped Ireland to a series-levelling three-wicket victory against Afghanistan in Belfast on Wednesday, 29 August.
The 37-year-old struck thrice in his opening spell to dismiss Mohammad Shahzad (0), the in-form Hazratullah Zazai (1), and Gulbadin Naib (7). Murtagh then dismissed Rashid Khan in the death to claim his second consecutive four-wicket haul.
"Tim is a fantastic performer – he’s been doing it for the last 20 years now," said Porterfield. "He knows his job and knows what he is doing. It’s great to see him get his rewards for everything he’s done. He’s just such a consistent performer for us."
Ireland take ODI series to a decider after beating Afghanistan by three wickets, and recording their first win of the tour!— ICC (@ICC) August 29, 2018
Tim Murtagh picks up four scalps for the second time in consecutive games 🔥
READ ⤵️https://t.co/QumQNd3psy pic.twitter.com/ObRFKzt9VT
Afghanistan's decision to bat first backfired as they lost wickets in a bunch, and limped to 182/9 after 50 overs. Najibullah Zadran, who scored a 52-ball 42, was their highest run-scorer.
It wasn't an easy win for Ireland, though. Their batsmen suffered as well, losing seven wickets in the chase, with the likes of Porterfield, Kevin O'Brien and Niall O'Brien dismissed for 0, 8 and 10 respectively.
Andrew Balbirnie, however, stuck it out and scored a 92-ball 60, his second consecutive half-century, while Simi Singh added late impetus with an unbeaten 36, helping Ireland secure victory in 43.5 overs.
The winning runs. #BackingGreen #IREvAFG pic.twitter.com/NltGLKdQNb— Cricket Ireland (@Irelandcricket) August 29, 2018
“The way the boys stuck at it for 50 overs was great – we asked for a bit more today and we got that," said Porterfield. "It was always going to be a scrappy game, but it was really nice for Simi to see it through at the end. The biggest thing for him was seeing that through at the end.
"It’s good for him and good for his confidence. How he went about it, it’s a different skill in itself to manoeuvre it around and bat with the lower order.
“And Balbo [Balbirnie] getting back-to-back fifties in scrappy conditions, it’s great to see him do that and fight through, even looking pretty fluent at times."
FIFTY - two in two matches for @balbo90. #congratulations #BackingGreen #IREvAFG pic.twitter.com/KyaRSgGSsb— Cricket Ireland (@Irelandcricket) August 29, 2018
The home side restricted Afghanistan to a small total in the first ODI as well, but the batsmen failed to see the chase through on that occasion and were bundled out for 198 in the 227-run chase.
“We were pretty good in the field today, and if we had the same application as today with the bat in the first game then we would likely be standing here two-nil up," said Porterfield.
"I’m really happy with how we went about it today, especially with the ball, and if we can bring that into Friday and get a few more partnerships then it will make things a little bit easier."
The third ODI will be played at the same venue on Friday.