A century from opener Mohammad Shahzad and career-best figures from captain Gulbadin Naib saw Afghanistan overrun Ireland in game two of the GS Holdings ODI Challenge at Stormont on Tuesday, leaving the series result level on one win apiece.
After Ireland captain William Porterfield won the toss and sent the visitors into bat, the Afghans looked determined to wipe away Sunday’s under-par batting display and struck out from the outset.
Shahzad (101 from 88 balls) led the charge, with the ever-consistent Rahmat Shah hitting 62. The pair shared a 150-run partnership for the second wicket before Andy McBrine removed both batters within the space of four balls in the 32nd over.
Sensing a way back into the game, the Irish bowlers began to slow the run rate until Hashmatullah Shahidi (47) and Najibullah Zadran (60*) came together and shared a 86-run stand for the 6th wicket in 53 balls.
The Afghans lost two wickets in the final over, however by then the damage was done and the visitors had compiled 305-7 from their 50 overs. This was their third highest team total in one-day internationals.
For the home side, Mark Adair picked up 3-71 and McBrine 2-43.
Ireland’s response started confidently with Paul Stirling hitting two boundaries in the first over, but the loss of James McCollum (3) and Andy Balbirnie (20) set the home side back on its heels.
Stirling continued to hit out, bringing up a run-a-ball half-century which included four fours and two sixes, before falling soon after caught on the deep square leg boundary. This was the fourth innings in a row Stirling has passed 50, with 77, 130, 71 and 50 being his last four completed innings.
After Stirling’s dismissal the run rate dried up and regular wickets fell, with only Gary Wilson (34) and Porterfield (19) looked like getting to grips with the bowling. Ireland eventually succumbed for 179 in the 42ndover, giving Afghanistan a 126-run win and a drawn series result.
For the Afghans, Naib claimed career-best figures of 6-43, his first five-wicket haul in ODI cricket.
Stirling was named Player of the Series for his two half-centuries. Speaking after the game, he said: "We would have loved to wrapped up the series 2-0, but we had a disappointing batting performance today.
"Obviously after we won the toss we were hoping to get a couple down early and put the pressure on, but we didn’t manage to do that. They put on a big partnership, and once you got in here you could put on big runs, which they did, and the result was that it was always going to be a tough chase."