Afghanistan are just one win away from claiming the five-match ODI series. Photo Courtesy: Aditya Sahay
Afghanistan are just one win away from claiming the five-match ODI series. Photo Courtesy: Aditya Sahay

How many times have we seen Ireland on top in the ongoing series versus Afghanistan and yet lose the contest? Well, let us not disregard the fact that they fought hard and have been competitive enough. However, they have been on the wrong side of tbe luck, losing all the matches this series. With three more ODIs to go, they still have a chance to claim the series. Though things look pretty bleak for the Irishmen, as they get ready to take on the blsitering Afghanistan side on Sunday. Here is a look at the likely XI for both the camps: Full Cricket Scorecard, Afghanistan vs Ireland, 3rd ODI

Top order: Mohammad Shahzad and Noor Ali Zadran added 90 runs for the first wicket in the second encounter. For that matter, that is how Afghanistan play. They fear nothing. They bat as if they have nothing to lose. Thus, the scorecard reflects so. However, Shahzad is often seen in no non-sense mood. He sees the ball, hits the ball (Virender Sehwag would agree). Zadran, on the other hand, is more calculative in his strokeplay. Nonetheless, the result is the same. He, too, scores at a brisk rate.

At No. 3 and 4 come Rahmat Shah and Asghar Stanikzai. Both these players have a different brand of cricket. While Rahmat carries on the momentum set by the audacious Shazad, captain Stanikzai plays the waiting game and then fires on all cylinders once he gets his eye in.

Middle and lower-middle order: Nothing changes their approach in any point of the game. In fact, each and every player can use the long handle to blasting effect. With Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi, and Shafiqullah present to exploit the solid foundation laid by the top order, Afghanistan need not worry one bit. Don’t they hit the ball hard?

Bowlers: It is a season of six-fors. Or maybe six-for is a new style statement. Leg-spinner Rashid Khan caught the same trend. He bagged six Irish wickets, smartly coupling his wrong ‘uns with regulation deliveries.

Though Amir Hamza went wicketless, Dawlat Zadran made amends for his fellow pacer with his pace-bowling. His figures read 9-0-52-6. However, Gulbadin Zadran was on the expensive side, but should be left off the hook, for the the Greater NOIDA track is a featherbed for the batsmen. In addition, Afghanistan have Nabi and Shenwari to roll theirs arms in the time of need.

Now to Ireland…

Top order: Ed Joyce is one of the mainstays of Ireland’s batting line-up. He missed out in the series opener but was up for the challenge in his side’s chase of 339 in the second. Nonetheless, he got out for 55. He will, however, continue to open the innings with his partner Paul Stirling, who scored a swaggering 95 in the colossal chase. Stirling did everything right with a six-for and fifty, but a poor decision by the on-field umpire led to his dismissal. Eventually, they lost the game by 34 runs. He would look to move on from the debacle and stage another all-round show on Sunday. William Porterfield, however, has looked good in the entire tour. He will continue to come at No. 3 and take his side forward.

Naill O’Brien has missed the plot in the first two games, but will hope to living up to his big-match player tag in a do-or-die clash.

Middle and lower order: Kevin O’Brien missed the last match due to a tight hamstring. His finishing skills were missed on Friday’s high-scoring encounter. If fit, he will walk in to the side in place of Andrew Balbirnie at 5. Gary Wilson, on the other hand, was agitated with his side’s defeat in the previous tie and did not shy away from taking more responsibility. Hopefully, he will walk the talk in the crucial game for his country. Wilson should be followed by Stuart Thompson at No. 7.

Boyd Rankin has missed all the action in the ongoing tour. His presence is being felt with every defeat for his side. Porterfield and co. have kept enough suspense on his comeback. He is expected to play the third ODI on Sunday. If this happens, he will replace Andy McBrine at No. 8. George Dockrell, Tim Murtagh and Jacob Mulder should fill in the remaining spots.

Bowlers: Bowling has been a cause of concern for the Irish camp since the start of the tour. Expect some turnaround with three must-win games lying ahead. Nonetheless, the going will be tough for Ireland on a turf conducive for batsmen. Dockrell, Stirling and Mulder can pose threats (or at least curb the run-flow) in the middle overs with their spin-bowling. In the pace department Rankin will spearhead the attack along with Murtagh, younger O’Brien and Thompson. Peter Chase maybe left out owing to his expensive spell on Friday.

Likely XI:

Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Stanikzai (c), Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Dawlat Zadran, Rashid Khan, Amir Hamza

Ireland: Ed Joyce, Paul Stirling, William Porterfield (c), Naill O’Brien (wk), Kevin O’Brien, Gary Wilson, Stuart Thompson, Boyd Rankin/Andy McBrine, Goerge Dockrell, Tim Murtagh, Jacob Mulder