Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie was left pondering what might have been as his side were beaten by Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi.

The encounter with the Afghans is part of a three-match ODI series, which forms a part of the World Cup qualifying process for the 2023 tournament, but Ireland lost by 16 runs as they failed to chase down a gettable target of 288.

The Ireland captain was encouraged by his side's overall play but rues the fact that none of the batsmen managed to push past 100 having made plenty of starts.

Lorcan Tucker's 83 gave Ireland some hope, but the opening unit let the team down, putting too much of an onus on the middle order and tailenders.

Andy McBrine took a career-best five for 29 and induced a mid-innings wobble as Afghanistan lurched from 120 without loss to 161 for five after winning the toss, but the off-spinner could not remove dangerman Rahmanullah Gurbaz who thumped nine sixes in a run-a-ball 127.

"We need to be more consistent, we had a lot of starts there, including myself," said Balbirnie, who reached double figures but then was unable to get beyond a paltry 15.

"Their player kicked on and scored a hundred and played really well. That was really the difference between the two sides."

"But some of our guys are still finding their feet at international cricket and can take a lot of positives. To score 270 on the wicket was good – but in the end it wasn't enough to win the game today.

"We pretty much knew what we were up against today with Afghanistan, and on a wicket that began to turn. I thought we played them pretty well today, they’re skillful bowlers, but we are just as skillful with the bat. We’ve just got to work as hard as we can off the pitch, and go again."

Looking ahead to the rest of the series, Balbirnie is still confident that his side can take valuable qualification points from the final two games, which take place on Sunday and Tuesday.

"We’ll probably have a day off tomorrow with the second and third games being so close together," said Balbirnie.

"We need to rest, but we also need to keep our skills up, and we’ll aim to collect 10 or 20 points over the next two games."