Paul Stirling scored a resolute 99 © AFP
Paul Stirling scored a resolute 99 © AFP

Greater NOIDA Sports Complex stadium witnessed a different script on Sunday. Ireland beat Afghanistan by 6 wickets in the third ODI, keeping the five-match series alive. Afghanistan’s modest score of 264 for 8 was chased down by the Irish camp in 48.3 overs. Riding on Paul Stirling’s composed 99, William Porterfield’s side had something to cheer about on their ongoing tour of India.  The next game will be played at the same venue on Wednesday — another do-or-die encounter for Ireland. LIVE Cricket Scorecard, Afghanistan vs Ireland, 3rd ODI at Greater NOIDA

Opting to bat, Afghanistan had a rough start. Peter Chase and Tim Murtagh’s early strikes initiated the downfall of Asghar Stanikzai’s side. Mohammad Shahzad and Noor Ali Zadran added only 11 on the board, as the latter went for 1. Shahzad then departed for 11 off 15 to give Chase his second scalp. George Dockrell, Murtagh, Andy McBrine and Stuart Thompson came into the party as Afghanistan’s middle order began to collapse. In no time, Rahmat Shah, Stanikzai, Mohammad Nabi were sitting back in the hut.

However, the tables swiftly turned after 20 overs. Rashid Khan added a valuable 96-run stand with Gulbadin Naib for the seventh wicket. The duo understood the need of the hour and built their innings accordingly. Porterfield rotated his bowlers, but found no luck. The pitch eased. The innings progressed, and the Irish bowlers started bowling length deliveries.

With fifties from Rashid and Naib, Shafiqullah Shafiq’s late onslaught took Afghanistan to a competitive score. He remained not out with a fine fifty. In reply, Ireland lost Ed Joyce and Porterfield early off Dawlat Zadran. On the other hand, Stirling continued his rich vein of form. He looked at ease against the pacers and played Rashid by adjusting well.

Stirling played Rashid’s short balls going on the back foot, keeping him at bay. He then found an able partner in Niall O’Brien. The duo added 96 runs for the third wicket.  However, O’Brien was sent back by Samiullah Shenwari for 30. Stirling looked unfazed by his dismissal before missing out on another hundred by a run. He was knocked over by Nabi, one of the most economical bowlers from Afghanistan.

Gary Wilson and Andy Balbirnie staged an unbeaten 86-run stand to prevent the usual lower-middle-order collapse for their side. Ireland won the contest by showing much improvement with the ball, playing Rashid fairly well (with abundance of sweep shots) and finishing off the game sensibly.

This victory would mean a lot to the Irishmen, and they will hope to level the series on Wednesday.

Brief scores:

Afghanistan 264 for 8 in 50 overs (Gulbadin Naib 51, Rashid 56, Shafiqullah Shafiq 50*; Peter Chase 2 for 55, Tim Murtagh 2 for 43) lose to Ireland 265 for 4 in 48.3 overs (Paul Stirling 99, Niall O’Brien 30, Andy Balbirnie 85*; Dawlat Zadran 2 for 52, Samiullah Shenwari 1 for 39) by 6 wickets.