Afghanistan will want to seal series win, while Ireland will hope it can seize key moments to draw the contest
A 79-run win for Afghanistan in the fourth One-Day International on Sunday means the series against Ireland has it leading 2-1 with one game left to play, at the same Civil Service Cricket Club ground at Stormont, Belfast, on Tuesday (July 19).
Ireland is the one who must now do all the running to square the series against its Associate rivals in its own backyard.
The series, after Afghanistan had warmed up by beating Scotland 1-0 in a two-match series, started with an expected washout, but things have been bright since, especially for the visiting side. It won the second ODI by 39 runs as Mohammad Shahzad and Najibullah Zadran hit half-centuries and the Irish middle order wilted. Ireland, however, bounced back with a six-wicket win in the third game despite another Shahzad special, as Joyce hit an unbeaten century and Kevin O’Brien scored a responsible 75.
O’Brien, who has been one of Ireland stars this series with bat and ball, did his bit in the fourth game too, but it was another disappointing batting performance on the whole from Ireland, who crashed to 150 all out while chasing 230 for a win. Rashid Khan, the 17-year-old legspinner who has made such an impression in a young career, took the batting honours this time, top-scoring for his team with an unbeaten 60 in 44 balls before picking up four wickets to hasten the Ireland end.
Ireland's bowlers, meanwhile, have done well to stop Afghanistan at 250, 236 and 229 for 7 in the three games that have taken place so far.
O’Brien has been among the wickets, and so has Barry McCarthy, the two accounting for 15 of the 27 Afghan wickets to have fallen. And while Tim Murtagh has kept Shahzad & Co. quiet without having much to show in his wickets column, an incisive performance from its spinners could add teeth to Ireland's bowling attack.
Ireland is the one who must now do all the running to square the series against its Associate rivals in its own backyard
The Irish can be excellent on their day, despite the many missing regulars in the squad, and it’s that grit and determination that the side needs to bring to the table on Tuesday. Afghanistan has found its stars at all times, none brighter than Shahzad up at the top of the order and Rashid with his ten overs (and lower-order batting, on recent evidence), while Nabi has been his usual dependable self and the support act with the ball has been appreciably good.
Weather permitting – the forecast, as always, is ‘mostly sunny’ with the occasional shower – it should be an excellent clash. The trend has been of low scores, and that should keep things competitive. Ireland has to step up to win some of the key moments. Afghanistan wouldn’t want that to happen, of course, as it aims to add another series win to its kitty.
Ireland: William Porterfield (capt), Ed Joyce, Peter Chase, Tyrone Kane, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O’Brien, Stuart Poynter (wk), Paul Stirling, Sean Terry, Gary Wilson, George Dockrell, John Anderson.
Afghanistan: Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Mirwais Ashraf, Gulbadin Naib, Dawlat Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Javed Ahmadi, Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Rahmat Shah, Mohammad Nabi, Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran, Amir Hamza, Yamin Ahmadzai.