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|Niall O Brien||10||20||1||0||50.00|
|Mujib Ur Rahman||10.0||0||41||1||4.10|
|Mujib Ur Rahman||12||9||2||0||133.33|
Afghanistan won the first ODI against Ireland by 29 runs in a match that was significantly closer than the T20 contests that preceded it. In the end, though, Ireland fell prey to some familiar failings and allowed Afghanistan to get away from some pretty precarious positions. The Irish batsmen do not seem to be capable of providing any sort of concerted challenge to the Afghan bowlers and that is proving to be their biggest hurdle.
Can Ireland find some way of combating the spin threat from Afghanistan or will the tourists build on this victory to take the ODI series as well?
What reason there may possibly have been for Ireland to win the toss and then elect to field is something beyond our understanding. The sluggish nature of the Belfast pitch made it difficult to bat and the surface only got more difficult as the match wore on. The Irish batsmen need every bit help available to combat the Afghan spinners and playing them on a slow, low surface is just not going to be easy.
Still, Ireland started well with the ball by picking up some early wickets and keeping a lid on the scoring. Boyd Rankin and Tim Murtagh picked up seven wickets between them and were the chief wreckers for Ireland.
At 25 for 2 and then 78 for 3, Ireland had a good chance of picking up another couple of wickets and really piling on the pressure. Their bowling, though, was unable to land the killer blow and allowed Afghanistan to make a comeback.
Ireland then did very well in the closing stages again as they reduced Afghanistan to 213 for 9 from 197 for 4. Even the final total of 227 that Afghanistan reached would have been acceptable to Ireland.
Unfortunately, their batsmen were unable to chase down this par total. All of Ireland’s top-8 players got into double figures but were unable to convert that start into a big score. Only Balbirnie scored a fifty and Gary Wilson scored 38 but none of the rest showed the grit to tough it out.
Ireland is going to be faced with quality spin once again and will be asked the same questions in the upcoming matches. A couple of the top-order batsmen need to do better, otherwise, they are going to lose the ODI series as well.
WTS Porterfield, PR Stirling, Andy Balbirnie, Niall O Brien, Simi Singh, Kevin O'Brien, GC Wilson, Andy McBrine, TJ Murtagh, WB Rankin, Peter Chase.
There would be many matches where Afghanistan would have played better cricket and ended up on the losing side than what they displayed in the first game. Against, Ireland, though, it seems that an average Afghanistan performance is going to be enough.
A poor batting start to its batting and an inability to formulate what a good total would have been on a slow surface almost led to an Afghan defeat. The short ball picked up quite a few wickets and there is no doubt that Ireland will use the same ploy again in this match.
Hazrutullah Zazai sparkled briefly before being dismissed, Ihsanullah did not last long, but the middle order stuck to its job rather well. Gulabdin Naib, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, and Asghar Afghan all made valuable contributions.
Naib and Shahidi laid down the foundation of the Afghan inning and ensured their team would be able to get to a par total at least. A flurry of wickets in the end as the tea tried to accelerate was troubling but it will not bother the Afghans too much.
The score of 227 was defended very well by Afghanistan’s bowlers who never let Ireland come up to the rate at all. Constant pressure, from the start till the end, suffocated Ireland and kept pushing the run-rate up.
Mujeeb, Nabi, and Rashid all stuck to their tasks beautifully. Even Naib and Alam bowled very well and the fact that none of the bowlers went for more than 4.30 runs per over shows the kind of dominance they had over the Irish batsmen.
Afghanistan will be eyeing a series victory in this match and would love to leave this tour unbeaten. Their ‘rivalry’ with Ireland is fast becoming a series of one-sided encounters where Afghanistan coasts to victory.
M Shahzad, Hazratullah Zazai, Gulbadin Naib, R Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, N Zadran.
The team winning the toss is expected to bat first
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The weather gods are expected to be kind for the second ODI as well and we should have another full game. The pitch was slow in the first game and it will be just as slow or even slower for the second game. It is not possible to change the character of the entire square in the span of a few days. Pinners will rule the roost and a score of 210-220 should be considered par.
Ireland must continue to believe that they can beat Afghanistan. They did beat them 2-1 in the last series they played before this one but since the two teams have gone in opposite directions. Afghanistan’s bowling strength has been the difference between the two sides and that is something that is going to be difficult to counter.
Back Afghanistan to win.