Afghanistan have carried their good form from the T20 series to the ODI series as they beat the hosts Ireland by 29 runs at Belfast to take a 1-0 lead in the three match series. Captain William Porterfield won the toss and invited the visitors to bat first.
Boyd Rankin provided a great start to Ireland bowling innings when he picked up opener Hazratullah Zazai in the third over. Tim Murtagh too supported Rankin as he dismissed the other opener Ishanullah when Afghanistan had scored only 25 runs in the seventh over. Guladin Naib and Rahmat Shah tried to steady the shinking ship. Rahmat was quite confident in his stroke making. The duo added 53 runs before Andy McBrine picked up Rahmat in the eighteenth over. But Naib carried on the good work. He reached to his fifth fifty in ODI cricket. Hashmatullah Sahidi supported Naib aptly on the other end. Naib was dismissed for 64 by Murtagh. Chase and Rankin removed Sahidi and Afghan Asghar quickly in successive overs. However Sahidi had already got to his fifty before being dismissed. The Afghan tailenders failed to add much to the scorecard. Afghanistan could only muster 227 runs in their fifty overs. Tim Murtagh was the pick of the bowlers from Ireland. He claimed wickets for 31 runs. His pace partner Rankin too was on the wickets list picking up three wickets for 44 runs.
Before the start of the match Irish Captain Porterfield had talked about the importance of not giving away wickets to the mysterious spinner Rashid Khan. Ireland seemed to have a plan about the chase. But the plan faltered when Aftab Alam picked up Paul Stirling in the seventh over. Gulbadin Naib soon came into the action when he sent William Porterfield back to the pavilion in the tenth over. Andy Balbirnie was set at one end of the crease but kept on losing partners at the other end. Wicket Keeper Niall O’Brien was the next to depart after a suicidal run out sent him to the pavilion. Simi Singh tried to play a matured innings but his stay too didn’t last longer than 31 balls. He was clean bowled by Mohammed Nabi. Andy Balbirine’s stay finally ended when Mujeeb Zadran took his wicket. He departed for a well made 55. Catastrophe again struck Ireland. This time it was Kevin O’Brien who ran himself out after a comedy of errors in the field. With 83 needed in the last twelve overs, there was huge burden on the shoulders of Gary Wilson who was the last recognised batsman of the Irish line up. But it was time for Rashid Khan to join the party. He clean bowled Wilson and put the match in Afghanistan’s hands. Nabi, Alam and Rashid made light work of the Irish tailenders. The side lost all its wickets for 198 in 48.3 overs.
Afghanistan have been impressive for the starting of the series. The second ODI is also at the same venue on 29th August. Can Ireland make a comeback or will Afghanistan wrap up the series lies the question.
Gulbadin Naib: 64(98)
Hashmatullah Sahidi: 54(82)
Tim Murtagh: 10-1-31-4.
Andy Balbirnie: 55(82)
Gary Wilson: 38(50)
Aftab Alam: 9-2-34-2.
Man of The Match: Gulbadin Naib.