One of the mainstays of the Irish middle-order for a decade with over 2000 ODI runs, Niall O'Brien returns to the squad © Getty Images
One of the mainstays of the Irish middle-order for a decade with over 2000 ODI runs, Niall O’Brien returns to the squad © Getty Images

Afghanistan turned up their game a few notches in the T20I series against Ireland and emerged victors 2-0 in a three-match series with one game washed out at Bready. 20-year old Hazratullah Zazai played a crucial role in his country’s victory as he played with a supreme strike rate of around 179 in the series. The positions of Afghanistan players in the ICC T20I player rankings also improved post a comprehensive performance. Rashid Khan remains the numero uno bowler in the T20I rankings released yesterday.

Ireland, however, were far from their best and would like to make a turnaround in the three-match ODI series that kicks off on Monday in the Northern Ireland capital city, Belfast. They will rely on performances from their seasoned campaigners. Niall O’Brien and Tim Murtagh come into the squad, and the experience of players like Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien and Gary Wilson will be crucial to holding their batting line-up together and launching into attack mode when required against the considerably experienced Afghanistan bowling.

Afghanistan are at No.10 the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings for Men, while Ireland occupy the 12th spot. Both teams haven’t played ODIs since the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 in Zimbabwe in March. Afghanistan’s spin-duo of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman looked perilous in the T20Is. The pair picked up 12 wickets between them. Their performances will again be key to the success of Afghanistan.

There are quite a few clouds expected to visit the Belfast skies on Monday morning. Although the precipitation is expected to considerably go down as the day progresses. We should have a game in all probability, although not without interference from sporadic showers.

Squads

Ireland: William Porterfield (c), Andy Balbirnie, Peter Chase, David Delany, George Dockrell, Andy McBrine, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Boyd Rankin, James Shannon, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Gary Wilson

Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad, Javed Ahmadi, Asghar Afghan (c), Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shenwari, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Aftab Alam, Ihsanullah Janat, Sayed Shirzad, Dawlat Zadran, Wafadar

Venue for the three-match ODI series - Civil Service Cricket Club, Belfast
1st ODI – Monday, August 27, 10.30 local, 9.45 GMT, 15.15 IST