Afghanistan lead 5-ODI series 2-0    Aditya Sahay
Afghanistan lead 5-ODI series 2-0 Aditya Sahay

Even St. Patrick’s Day could not change Ireland s fortunes, a day that has brought some famous wins in their cricketing history, for they lost the second ODI versus Afghanistan by 34 runs. Chasing a mammoth 339, Ireland put up a brave fight, but Rashid Khan and Asghar Stanikzai prevented them from notching up their first triumph on the tour. The five-match series stands at 2-0 in favour of the home side. Opting to bat, Afghanistan began on a positive note. Nothing changed at Greater Noida Sports Complex, as Ireland were on the back foot for most part of the innings. Shahzad started on a blazing note to stitch a quickfire 63, flooded with 12 fours. Noor Ali Zadran batted carefully, but departed soon after Shahzad. Rahmat Shah, on the other hand, continued to hold fort in middle overs. He not only rotated the strike, but also kept the scoreboard ticking by sending the ball over the ropes from time to time. Live cricket score: Afghanistan vs Ireland, 2nd ODI

Rahmat, however, was well supported by Stanikzai. The duo struck a valiant 96-run stand for the third wicket to keep Afghanistan ahead. After Rahmat s fall, Stanikzai unleashed his attacking mode with some lusty blows using his bottom hand in to play. Be it backward-square, deep extra-cover or deep point, no part of the ground was spared as he used the long handle to good effect.

Slamming Peter Chase for three consecutive sixes, Stanikzai made his intentions crystal clear in the last 10 overs. In the 46th over, he brought up his maiden international ton, following his flurry of insignificant scores earlier. Nonetheless, he led from the front before departing for a 90-ball 101. Live cricket updates: Afghanistan post highest score; Stirling registers best figures for Ireland

Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari were dismissed after brief stay. Be that as it may, Shafiqullah Shafiq completed the formalities with a fine cameo and led Afghanistan to their highest ODI score.

Ireland were precarious with the ball, especially the pace battery. Afghanistan s batsmen went on the defensive and led the late onslaught as Chase, Tim Murtagh and Stuart Thompson smashed the ball in all corners. They were even left perplexed with sloppy fielding.

George Dockrell and Paul Stirling were the only economical bowlers in an innings that was studded with 11 sixes. Stirling also registered the best Irish figures (6 for 55) amidst the late flourish.

In reply, Ireland were 113 for no loss. Ed Joyce and Stirling were getting the odd boundaries before Joyce was sent back by Gulbadin Naib for 55. He chopped onto the stumps trying to drive, which brought in William Porterfield. He again led his side s recovery but lost Stirling (95) when he was on the verge of creating history. Stirling could have been the first player bag three figures and take a six-for in the same match but fate had something different in store.

After Stirling s dismissal, the inevitable happened. Ireland s middle order came into play. As a matter of fact, they had been passive in the entire tour. Niall O Brien could not do much, after which Porterfield also left the field for a well compiled 45. Afghanistan s trump card, Rashid, was held back till the first half of the innings. However, on being introduced, he constantly applied the brakes on the scoring. Dismissing the big guns, O Brien, Porterfield, Gary Wilson and Andy McBrine, he broke the oppositions backbone.

Amidst all this, Stuart Thompson played a handy knock (37 off 25) and kept hopes alive in his dugout. Nonetheless, a length delivery angling away from Dawlat Zadran tempted Thompson for a pull, and was caught by Nabi at mid-wicket. Zadran also chipped in with a few breakthroughs, as Kevin O Brien s absence was felt in the middle. As a result, Ireland were folded for 304 in 47.3 overs.

Rashid continued to have a dream run against Ireland as they failed to pick his lengths and wicket-to-wicket balling. He picked up his maiden five-for in ODIs and now has 19 scalps in 5 games on the tour. The next game will be played at the same venue on March 19, Sunday.

Brief scores:

Afghanistan 338 all-out in 50 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 63, Rahmat Shah 68, Asghar Stanikzai 101; George Dockrell 2 for 45, Paul Stirling 6 for 55) beat Ireland 304 in 47.3 overs (Ed Joyce 55, Paul Stirling 95, William Porterfield 45, Stuart Thompson 37; Rashid Khan 6 for 43, Dawlat Zadran 3 for 52) by 34 runs.

Man of the Match: Paul Stirling

Full scorecard