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Jolted Afghanistan eye comeback against reassured Ireland

A 72-run loss in the first game of the series has come as a major wake-up call for Afghanistan before the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.

Overview

Ireland v Afghanistan
2nd ODI
Civil Service Cricket Club, Belfast
Tuesday, 21 May; 10:45am local, 09:45am GMT

Fresh off a series win against Scotland, Afghanistan lived up to their reputation with the ball in the first ODI, bundling out Ireland for 210 in the 49th over. However, a slow start and early top-order wickets in the chase left too much for the batsmen to follow, as the innings never seemed to gather any momentum thereafter. Asghar Afghan and Mohammad Nabi stitched together a 54-run stand, which was the only stabiliser in an innings that ended on 138.

Afghanistan will expect Rashid Khan to weave his magic in the series decider on Tuesday
Afghanistan will expect Rashid Khan to weave his magic in the series decider on Tuesday

Under the newly-appointed captain, Gulbadin Naib, Afghanistan will look to improve on that batting performance and tie the series, before heading to the World Cup, which gets underway on 30 May. The team might also include the experienced all-rounder, Samiullah Shenwari, in the XI when they take the field on Tuesday.

Ireland, meanwhile, used the overcast conditions to great effect to reduce the visitors to 40/4 in the first ODI. Mark Adair and Boyd Rankin shared seven wickets between them. Contributions from Paul Stirling and captain William Porterfield also come as great positives, as does Andy Balbirnie's great form in 2019.

With conditions in their favour, an encore should give the hosts their first bilateral series victory since December 2017, when they beat the same opposition.

Key Players

Andy Balbirnie (Ireland): Balbirnie had a rare failure in the first ODI, when he nicked one behind the stumps off Dawlat Zadran. But with over 400 runs this year, the right-handed batsman is a lynchpin of this Ireland side, and might well be a match-winner for them on Tuesday.

With 432 runs in nine innings, Andy Balbirnie has been the most prolific batsman for Ireland in 2019
With 432 runs in nine innings, Andy Balbirnie has been the most prolific batsman for Ireland in 2019

Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan): It's been a while since the wicket-keeper batsman has produced a performance that would live up to his billing. On his day, the opener can potentially tilt the scales in favour of his team single-handedly. Tuesday gives him another opportunity to get back into groove before the World Cup.

Conditions:

Overcast conditions on Sunday brought back the English conditions of the old, with the new white ball doing tricks. But with minimal chances of rain and a bright weather forecast, one can hope for a lot more runs on offer in the series decider on Tuesday.

Squads

Ireland: William Porterfield (c), Mark Adair, Andrew Balbirnie, George Dockrell, Tyrone Kane, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O'Brien, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Lorcan Tucker, Gary Wilson.

Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (c), Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, CRashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan and Mujeeb ur Rahman.

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Afghanistan fans celebrate a boundary during the 2019 Cricket World Cup warm up match between England and Afghanistan at The Oval in London on May 27, 2019.

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