Rahmat Shah’s 103* trumps Paul Stirling’s 128 as Afghanistan go 2-0 up

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Naveen-ul-Haq and Mujeeb Ur Rahman played key roles to restrict Ireland to 259

Afghanistan 260 for 3 (Rahmat 103*, Shahidi 82) beat Ireland 259 for 9 (Stirling 128, Campher 47, Naveen 4-42, Mujeeb 3-46) by seven wickets

Better support with bat and ball ensured Rahmat Shah‘s unbeaten 103 trumped Paul Stirling‘s 128 as Afghanistan took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match ODI series. A third-wicket partnership of 184 between Rahmat and Hashmatullah Shahidi carried Afghanistan to a seven-wicket win with 28 balls remaining, after Ireland had set them a target of 260.

The only comparable partnership for Ireland was a fourth-wicket stand of 106 between Stirling and Curtis Campher, which came up in just 103 balls and featured excellent use of the sweep from both batsmen, particularly off Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan. The partnership left Ireland in good shape to mount a slog-overs charge, but they lost steam following the dismissal of Campher, caught at short extra-cover off Rashid. They only made 49 off the last 50 balls of their innings, and lost six wickets while doing so.

Three of those wickets, including that of Stirling in the 45th over, went to the fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq, who finished with figures of 4 for 42 from his ten overs. Afghanistan’s other bowling star was Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who picked up three wickets including the key dismissals of Kevin O’Brien and Andy Balbirnie with the new ball, which left Ireland 20 for 2 at one stage. Stirling began rebuilding the innings in the company of Harry Tector, who made a watchful 24, before Campher joined him in the 25th over of the innings.

Afghanistan’s chase began brightly, with Rahmanullah Gurbaz following up his debut hundred in the first ODI by clattering 31 off 26 balls, including two sixes off Simi Singh’s offspin. Barry McCarthy and Campher struck in successive overs thereafter, though, to leave Afghanistan in a bit of bother at 48 for 2 in the ninth over.

Rahmat and Shahidi counterattacked, hitting four fours and a six between them in their first four full overs together. Shahidi then slipped into a lower gear even as Rahmat kept finding the boundary with pristine drives to keep the required rate well under control. He brought up his half-century off 49 balls, at the start of the 23rd over.

It took Shahidi another ten overs to get to that milestone, off 68 balls, but having done so he opened out significantly, hitting Craig Young for back-to-back fours in the 38th over to bring up Afghanistan’s 200, and repeating the dose off Simi in the 42nd over before holing out to long-off to fall 18 short of a century.

There was no such trouble for Rahmat, who brought up the landmark for the fifth time in his ODI career, before giving his only chance, put down at point by a diving Tector off McCarthy. By then Afghanistan only needed 21, and their captain Asghar Afghan ensured they’d finish in a hurry, hitting McCarthy for 6. 6, 4 in the 45th over and ending up unbeaten on 21 off 13 balls.

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