Ireland lost their opening match of three against Afghanistan in the World Cup qualifiers by 16 runs, letting their opponents off the hook in their innings as Graham Ford's top order failed to fire in game one in Abu Dhabi. 

Lorcan Tucker, who made 83, offered a glimmer of hope for Ireland. But having lost their recognised batsmen early chasing 288 for victory, Ireland's middle order couldn't get them over the line. 

Afghanistan's innings was dominated by 19-year-old opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz, with the wicketkeeper making a run a ball 27 on debut and helped by fellow opener Javed Ahmadi, the Afghans piled on the runs early.

By the time that Ahmadi had departed in the 22nd over, Afghanistan, who had earlier won the toss and elected to bat, were on 120 for 1 and looked well set for a big total. 

However, with Ahmadi’s dismissal, Afghanistan wobbled, losing their next six wickets for just 88 runs as Gurbaz, who was dropped on 17 by wicketkeeper Lorcan Tucker, making a fine maiden ODI ton before being caught in the deep by Simi Singh off the bowling of Gareth Delaney in the 38th over. 

Andy McBrine was the pick of the Irish bowlers, taking five for 29 in a fine 10-over spell and Afghanistan at one stage, were looking at a modest total, before Rashid Khan smacked 55 from just 30 deliveries to take his side to 287 for 9 at the close of their innings. 

Andy McBrine

Ireland in reply lost Kevin O'Brien (1), captain Andy Balbirnie (15) early, before opener Paul Stirling (38) and Harry Tector (29) took the score to 86 before both fell in quick succession.

Stirling's dismissal brought Lorcan Tucker to the crease to join Curtis Campher and the pair then steadied the innings taking Ireland from 88 for 4 in the 18th over to 174 in the 37th, before Campher was dismissed for 39, lbw to leg spinner Mujeeb, a partnership of 86. 

Gareth Delaney (5) didn’t last long as Rashid took his first wicket. Simi Singh made a quickfire 23 before he was stumped while Andy McBrine (2) didn’t last long. 

Tucker whacked a few late sixes to give Ireland an outside chance of an unlikely win, but when he was caught behind by Gurbaz for a fine 83, becoming Rashid’s second victim, the game was up for Ireland. 

Barry McCarthy (5) and Craig Young (11) were the not out batsmen as Ireland finished their 50 overs on 271 for 9. 

The second of the three-match series is scheduled for Sunday with the final game on Tuesday.