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|Mujib Ur Rahman||4.0||0||32||1||8.00|
Ireland debuted in International Cricket a long before Afghanistan did, but Afghanistan have certainly put in big steps to match Ireland, as far as making name for themselves is concerned. They both got Test status at the same time and are going almost neck and neck in International Cricket. Ireland, however, haven't been able to match Afghanistan's prowess in recently concluded matches. As a result, Afghanistan are leading the three-match series between the two 2-0. While the two matches concluded so far did not prove to be one-way traffic, Afghanistan had an upper-hand in both of those. They seem to be enjoying the home advantage and considering that Ireland would have to strive hard in the upcoming contest to topple Afghans. Ireland are certainly capable, but it is not going to be easy. The match between the two sides is to be played at Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex, Greater Noida, on 10th March.
With most of their playing T20 Cricket across the globe, Afghanistan are known to be a T20 powerhouse, at least among the associate and affiliate nations. Over the last few years, their T20 lineup has more or less been the same with only a few new faces introduced. Asghar Afghan is back as their skipper and they seem to be doing reasonably well.
In the two matches gone so far, they did pretty well and looked better of the two sides. While they scripted a good chase in the first match before the match was decided on the basis of Duckworth Lewis and Stern method, they defended brilliantly in the second. Batting first on a surface that had no visible demons, Afghanistan always looked ahead. Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz got them off to a slow but stable start and their middle order came in and smashed the ball around beautifully. Skipper Asghar Afghan missed his fifty by just one run, but did enough to take Afghanistan to a tall total. He top-scored for Afghanistan with 49 runs off 28 deliveries.
A total of 183 is always difficult to chase down and to defend it, all Afghanistan bowlers needed to do was to bowl in tight channels. Mujeeb Ur Rahman was brilliant in the powerplay overs and removed Ireland's openers, arguably the biggest threat. He was the wrecker in chief as he picked up three wickets for 38 runs in his four overs. The likes of Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan took control of things in the middle overs and delivered some tight overs. Afghanistan eventually won the match by 21 runs.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Usman Ghani, Karim Janat, N Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Rashid Khan, Qais Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq.
While Ireland haven't done too badly in the series so far, they have failed to match Afghanistan's performance. They narrowly missed their chances in both the matches and would need to step up their game in the third encounter of the series.
In the second match, they did reasonably well and were will within the match for most of its part. However, they failed to keep Afghanistan's batsmen tied-down in the death overs as the Afghans managed to score 184. Craig Young was the pick of their bowlers as he returned with impressive figures of 1 for 27 in four overs. However, most of their other bowlers proved to be expensive and that is something they would have to be wary of in the upcoming matches.
While the total of 184 looked daunting, it was never an impossible task. However, a poor start at the top made things further more difficult for Ireland. Skipper Andrew Balbirnie looked good, but once he was dismissed, floodgates opened and Ireland lost the plot. Andrew Balbirnie top-scored for Ireland with a 35-ball 46 and Harry Tector contributed with 29-ball 37.
Andy Balbirnie, Gareth Delany, Shane Getkate, Joshua Little, Barry McCarthy, Kevin O'Brien, Simi Singh, PR Stirling, Lorcan Tucker, Harry Tector, CA Young.
There hasn't been much to separate the two sides, to be fair. While Afghanistan have looked to be the better side between the two, the margin hasn't been much. If Ireland can step-up their game by only a little, things good change for them. Having said that, as things are now, Afghanistan appear to be a better side on-paper and on-performance in the tournament so far. Betting on an Afghanistan's win should be the way to go.
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