Belfast: Afghanistan’s World Cup preparations suffered a setback as they crashed to a 72-run defeat against Ireland in Sunday’s One Day International.
Chasing 211 to win in Belfast, Afghanistan were dismissed for 138 after losing their last six wickets for just 44 runs.
Mark Adair was their chief tormentor with figures of 4-19, while Boyd Rankin took 3-40.
Afghanistan had given themselves a chance of a win as they bowled out the hosts for 210 after captain Gulbadin Naib won the toss and elected to field.
The visitors’ bowling attacked sought to use the seam-friendly conditions to make early inroads.
The loss of James McCollum and the in-form Andy Balbirnie, both dismissed by Dawlat Zadran for four, had Ireland set back on their heels at 35-2.
Paul Stirling and William Porterfield stabilised the Ireland innings as the pair shared a 99-run third wicket partnership.
Stirling (71 from 94 balls) continued his rich vein of form, having scored 77 and 130 in his last two innings.
Ireland captain Porterfield (53 from 83 balls) scored his second consecutive half-century after registering 93 in his last outing against Bangladesh last Wednesday.
But Aftab Alam and Zadran each took three wickets to keep the Irish score down.
Tim Murtagh triggered Afghanistan’s struggles with the bat by taking the first two wickets and leaving the tourists on 19-2.
Afghanistan’s hopes faded when a fifth-wicket partnership between Asghar Afghan (29) and Mohammad Nabi (27) came to an end.
The teams will clash again in the second and final match of the series on Tuesday.
The Afghans took on Ireland at the Civil Service Cricket Club, Stormont, as they gear up for the challenges that await in the tournament, which begins on May 30 in England and Wales. The underdogs take on Australia in their first match on June 1, and their formidable bowling will have Justin Langer’s side taking note as they skittled the Irish out for 210.
Afghanistan and Ireland drew 2-2 the last time they clashed in an ODI series in India in March, but the preparations will be of more importance than the result for the tourists as they look to improve on their record of one win in the World Cup during their one and only previous participation in the competition in 2015.
Afghanistan will be keen to get as much time on the field as possible during this mini series as their matches against Scotland were severely curtailed by the weather, hampering their preparations as the tournament looms.
Afghanistan have unearthed a true talent in 20-year-old Rashid, who credits the T20 explosion with the development of his game. He has played in the Indian Premier League, Big Bash League and Caribbean Premier League.
“2017 was the start and everything changed from there,” Rashid told CricketNext. “IPL is a format where if you perform, you will be renowned throughout the world. There are only top-quality players and teams here and doing well here gives lot of confidence.” Rashid will be making his World Cup debut next month and with 123 wickets in 57 ODIs so far, he is looking to make a big impression.
“We’ll try to play good cricket in the World Cup — the kind of cricket we played in the Asia Cup. We want to replicate that,” he said.