Which side will blossom in their first match of the first bilateral series?    Getty Images
Which side will blossom in their first match of the first bilateral series? Getty Images

Two dominant associate nations of the cricket world come together for their first bilateral T20I and ODI series starting on March 8, when Ireland and Afghanistan meet. Greater Noida will be making its debut by hosting its first international match as well. Ireland and Afghanistan have claimed enough recognition in the shorter formats. One of Ireland s prominent matches in T20I history was when they knocked off Pakistan in ICC World Cup 2007. Afghanistan, meanwhile, have etched their name in shortest format when they claimed their spot in Super 10 stage of ICC World T20 2016. Afghanistan will have the upper hand after the recent wins over Zimbabwe and maiden Desert T20 title against their current opponents. Full Cricket Scorecard, Afghanistan vs Ireland, 1st T20 at Greater Noida

Where Afghanistan will be captained by Mohammad Shahzad, Ireland will be led by regular captain William Porterfield. Both the teams have played seven T20Is so far. Afghanistan have dominated with four victories against Ireland. On this note, let us look at the possible likely XI s of both the sides:

Top order: Afghanistan will not find anything common in this order except for their regular opening batsman Shahzad. This powerful hard-hitting batsman is enough to provide the required start in the shortest format. However, Shahzad will also have to ensure that he adds pressure on the opponents by rotating the strike and keeping the game close knit as a captain. Joining him along will be Najeeb Tarakai. After a decent Desert T20 match against Ireland, Tarakai will hope to make this opportunity count along with Shahzad in the absence of Noor Ali Zadran and Rahmat Shah. Entering at No. 3 would be comeback man Usman Ghani. This exciting and emerging talent has the capability to change the fortunes returning to the shortest format after 2016.

On the other hand, Ireland s formidable top-order can leave any opponent weak. The visitors will begin with their usual opening batsman Paul Stirling. He ended with 141 runs in the Desert T20 tournament and can provide the required start. Joining him along will be the Porterfield who is the country s top run-scorer in ODIs as well as T20Is. At No. 3 would be Kevin O Brien. His stroke play can go past the boundary line on any given ball.

Middle order: With some new faces around, Afghanistan s unit might just witness some changes in this order. No. 4 would see Samiullah Shenwari. Apart from bringing variations through his leg-spin, Shenwari has been successful with the bat as well over time. Giving him company at No. 5 is an efficient and strong middle order all-rounder Mohammad Nabi. A batsman, who can provide fine finish to any innings, Nabi will be expected to bring his fiery game at the forefront with no Asghar Stanikzai around. Najibullah Zadran would be the partner-in-crime for the all-rounder to bamboozle the opponent. Gulbadin Naib can perfectly float in the middle, chipping in with some runs with the bat. AFG vs IRE 1st T20 preview: AFG to turn new leaf on adopted turf

The major chunk of runs for Ireland comes from this order that is boosted by all-rounders. Gary Wilson s calm batting performance, his wide range of shots and skills behind the stumps have contributed to Ireland s rise in international cricket. He was the second highest run-scorer in the Desert T20 after Shahzad. Greg Thompson, who usually plays in at No. 6, is yet to play against Afghanistan. His best performance came in his debut match against Hong Kong in 2016, scoring 44. But he has all the possibility to shine with the ball keeping in mind the Under-19 records. Andy McBrine has not created a significant impact in the 16 T20I matches played. However, McBrine will be expected to offer better services with the ball, especially in spin-friendly conditions. At No.7 enters Ireland s attractive all-rounder Stuart Thomson. Highly regarded by former coach Phil Simmons, he can be handy with the ball as well.

Bowlers: If there is any team amongst these nations which tops the game just with their bowling is Afghanistan. With conditions that are provided on the platter, Rashid Khan, Amir Hamza, Dawlat Zadran and Karim Janat can twist the tales for their side. Rashid has been on the top, especially after being the top bid amongst associate nations in IPL 2017 auctions. Then there is Nabi, Shenwari, Naib and Najibullah who can assist as well.

Ireland have built their bowling attack with the inclusion of newbie Jacob Mulder. He made an immediate impact in his first overseas tour and went on to become the leading wicket-taker in the Desert T20 tournament. Along with him will be the experienced George Dockrell. However, Boyd Rankin and Craig Young will be expected to better their bowling abilities against an upbeat Afghanistan bowling unit.

Afghanistan Likely XI: Mohammad Shahzad (c & wk), Najeeb Tarakai, Usman Ghani, Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Amir Hamza, Dawlat Zadran and Karim Janat

Ireland Likely XI: Paul Stirling, William Porterfield (c), Kevin O Brien, Gary Wilson (wk), Greg Thompson, Andy McBrien, Stuart Thompson, Jacob Mulder, George Dockrell, Boyd Rankin and Craig Young