Mujeeb Ur Rahman Afghanistan Ireland
Mujeeb Ur Rahman choked Ireland again AFP (file photo)

Ireland‘s fortunes did not change with the change of format or venue. After losing the T20Is 0-2 to Afghanistan, they now lost the first ODI of the three-match series, Civil Service Cricket Club, Stormont, Belfast, by 29 runs. Chasing 228, they were 130 for 4 in the 34th over, but the Afghan spinners were fantastic on a sluggish surface.

However, they kept losing wickets at regular intervals, and eventually crashed to 198.

Despite failing to chase twice in the T20Is, William Porterfield put Afghanistan in. The absence of Mohammad Shahzad might have played a role in the decision. Boyd Rankin and Tim Murtagh got the openers out quickly. This included debutant Hazratullah Zazai, who batted brilliantly in the T20Is. Zazai lasted only nine balls, but he got 14, including a cut for four and a pull for six.

Then Gulbadin Naib (64) and Hashmatullah Shahidi (54) dug in. Captain Asghar Stanikzai chipped in with a 23-ball 25, while Shafiqullah Shafiq and Aftab Alam hit out in the end.

Afghanistan got Mujeeb Ur Rahman to bowl the second over. Mujeeb gave away a mere 18 from his first spell of six overs, while Aftab took out the dangerous Paul Stirling early. And even after Aftab and Mujeeb came off, Naib and Mohammad Nabi ensured the Irish were not let off the hook.

Rashid Khan was not introduced till the 23rd over. By then Afghanistan had crawled to 69 for 3. If anything, Rashid went for a few runs, and it seemed Andy Balbirnie would shepherd the innings before he fell for 55, top-edging a sweep off Mujeeb. Kevin O’Brien and Gary Wilson tried their best to hit out, but the Afghans were almost impossible to hit on the slow pitch.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 227 for 9 in 50 overs (Gulbadin Naib 64, Hashmatullah Shahidi 54; Tim Murtagh 4 for 31, Boyd Rankin 3 for 44) beat Ireland 198 in 48.3 overs (Andy Balbirnie 55; Aftab Alam 2 for 34) by 29 runs.