Twice in this series, Rahmat Shah failed to kick on after scoring a half-century. In the decider, he scored in triple-figures, for the second time in ODIs, to help Afghanistan recover from an early wobble and convert a potentially tricky 230 chase into a cruise. He steered them towards the target in Samiullah Shenwari’s company and then sealed a seven-wicket win with a six that helped them clinch a 3-2 series win to go along with the T20 clean sweep in Greater Noida, their adopted home ground.
While Rahmat came up with the blockbuster knock, Shenwari’s unbeaten 62 was also important. The fourth-wicket pair added 133, helping them recover from 98 for 3 and overcoming pressure Ireland’s slow bowlers built in the aftermath of Asghar Stanikzai’s wicket for 39 in the 25th over. They eventually won with eight balls to spare and completed their second bilateral series win in three attempts against Ireland. The five-match ODI series in July 2016 in Ireland ended 2-2.
Ireland, who won their first toss of the series, elected to bat and were driven by the experienced pair of Ed Joyce (42) and Paul Stirling (51), who added 69 for the first wicket. William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien also got off to starts and put Ireland in a position from where 275 looked a possibility. But the absence of the big-hitting Kevin O’Brien, out due to a hamstring niggle, perhaps hurt them in the end overs.
Inability of the lower middle order to bring out the big hits on a slow wicket resulted in a flurry of wickets, bulk of which were taken by Rashid Khan. The legspinner finished with 4 for 29 to top the wicket-takers’ list with 16 wickets as Ireland lost their last seven wickets for 59 runs to be bowled out for 229 in the penultimate over.
Left-arm quick Fareed Ahmad, playing his first game of the series, picked up three wickets, while Dawlat Zadran, who kept the pressure up early on in cloudy conditions, finished with two scalps including a ripper of a yorker that sent back the experienced Gary Wilson in the 39th over to delay their slog.
Afghanistan lost the big-hitting Mohammad Shahzad in the fifth over when he was snuffed out courtesy a sensational catch at cover by Porterfield. Three overs later, Najeeb Tarakai, who faced 18 deliveries for 5, let pressure get to him as he skewed a catch to long-on to leave Afghanistan wobbling at 25 for 2.
Stanikzai, the captain, held fort briefly before falling to George Dockrell’s left-arm spin. With the asking rate escalating and pressure building, Afghanistan needed a rescue act and they had one with Rahmat and Shenwari scoring together at a run rate of over 5.5 per over.
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