Afghanistan are on top of Ireland but cannot let complacency creep in ahead of 2nd ODI. Photo Courtesy: Aditya Sahay (CC Reporter)
Afghanistan are on top of Ireland but cannot let complacency creep in ahead of 2nd ODI. Photo Courtesy: Aditya Sahay (CC Reporter)

Four matches have gone by in Afghanistan‘s home series versus Ireland, on an adopted turf of Greater Noida. However, Ireland are yet to win their first tie. After being whitewashed in the three-match T20I series, they looked on course to win the first ODI before losing plot in the death overs. Being comfortably placed at 206 for 2, chasing 293, William Porterfield’s side were in painful distance of victory before a lower-order collapse inhibited them by 30 runs. Nonetheless, they will like to move on and come hard to script their first triumph on a tour that has begun to test them, both mentally and physically.

The Asian side will like to inflict more pain on Ireland with another good outing in the second ODI on Friday. On the other hand, Porterfield’s side need to level the series before they get into a shell. With lots to play for both sides, let us walk through some key battles that may unfold in the second encounter: Full Cricket Scorecard, Afghanistan vs Ireland, 2nd ODI at Greater NOIDA

Mohammad Shahzad vs Mohammad Shahzad: Yes, you read it right. A batsman of Shahzad’s calibre often leads to self-destruction. Since the first T20I, Shahzad has looked in good touch by getting off to promising starts. Nonetheless, with scores of 47, 4, 72 and 43, he is still away from a big innings. No doubt, he is timing the ball well but needs to curb his lacklustre approach and stay in the middle for long.

When Shahzad clicks, he makes the opponents pay. But time and again, he has fallen against the run of play. Well, this is his batting style. Connoisseurs of the game label it as a fearless approach. He will entertain even if for a brief period and walk back to the hut with some lusty blows. Nonetheless, he will be itching to get a big score under his belt and take the game out of Ireland’s grasp. I reckon, a big knock is round the corner for the wicketkeeper-batsman.

Asghar Stanikzai vs inconsistency: Stanikzai played a vital cameo in the first T20I to finish with a 13-ball 20. However, the captain’s bat has remained silent ever since. With scores of 4, 12 and 10 (in the first ODI), he has not done anything significant. It has been noticed that the 30-year-old has been in a hurry despite having had much time in the middle. In the second T20I, he departed in the third over. In the next tie, Stanikzai departed in the 70th ball of the innings, looking to clear the ropes. The story remained the same in the first ODI. He could have easily settled but threw his wicket, trying to accelerate in the 35th over.

Probably, Stanikzai needs to find a permanent spot in the line-up and bat accordingly. His poor shot selections, minimal thinking and constant shuffling in the batting order is certainly not working for his side.

Rashid Khan up against law of averages: He had only one wicket up his sleeves and bowled economically in the T20I opener. In the next two matches, Rashid picked up 8 scalps to finish with an economy of 5.50. To throw more light on these astonishing numbers, the 19-year-old did all this when the Irish batsman were going bonkers in the penultimate stage of the series (barring the meek surrender in the rain-curtailed second clash).

Rashid did not stop in the 50-over format. Ireland were again in a commanding position chasing 293 on Wednesday. In came the leg spinner. He bowled 9 overs, conceding 48 runs and earning 4 scalps. Thus, he again starred in his side’s comeback with a strong performance. He has 13 dismissals in 4 games. This, in all probability, speaks volumes of his consistency and is certainly giving a run for the money to the much-talked about phenomenon called the law of averages. Will he finally falter or continue to surprise?

Ireland vs the knack of finishing games: It is not that Ireland lacked steam. In the last ODI, they even managed to restrict Afghanistan below 300 with their otherwise erratic bowling. Nonetheless, they have managed to lose from nowhere and not been able to capitalise on crucial moments. From 83 for 1 in 9.3 overs, Ireland managed only 82 off the next 63 balls in the first T20I. From 60 for 1 in 5 overs, Irishmen faltered in a rain-hit chase in the next game. The dead rubber, again, saw them fall prey to pressure. From being 123 for 3 off 10.3 overs in the pursuit of 234, William Porterfield s side eventually succumbed to a 28-run defeat. Moving on to the 50-over contest, the script remained similar. From 206 for 2, they succumbed to 262 all-out.

Ireland’s lower order has to show more character to finish things off in style. With 4 back-to-back drubbings, no matter how much Porterfield states that they will have to start afresh. These losses will start to take a toll on their players. For that matter, any team needs to be in positive frame of mind and not repeat mistakes. Ireland are not here to fill in numbers, and will like to brush aside their past follies to level the five-match series.