Najbullah Zadran produced a standout performance as Afghanistan bounced back from their heavy defeat to Scotland with a 71-run win over Ireland in the Dubai tri-series.
Despite Craig Young and Kevin O’Brien each taking three wickets for Ireland, Najbullah Zadran thumped 83 off 50 balls to lift Afghanistan to a competitive 246 for eight at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Despite most of their top order getting starts, no-one in the Irish batting line-up could go on as they collapsed to 175 all out and their first defeat of the new year.
Ireland’s destiny is still in their hands though, as they will win the tri-series title if they beat Scotland on Monday.
They won the toss and put in Afghanistan, who lost their openers early on.
Usman Ghani departed for six after edging to second slip off Young, who also accounted for Javed Ahmadi as he edged behind for 13.
But a battling 50 from Shamiullah Shenwari settled Afghan nerves and laid the platform for Zadran to change the course of the game.
Zadran smacked his first one-day international half-century, an innings which included six sixes and seven fours, as his team tucked into the Irish bowlers, scoring 119 runs from the last 13 overs and setting their opponents a victory target of 247.
Ireland’s reply began well before captain William Porterfield edged behind off Hamid Hassan with the score on 40 and the fielding side seized their chance.
Porterfield’s fellow opener Paul Stirling fell lbw to the same bowler on 36, and Mirwais Ashraf dismissed Gary Wilson and Niall O’Brien in quick succession to give the Afghans their advantage.
With the Irish teetering, Aftab Alam picked up a couple of lower order wickets before Hassan – who finished with figures of three for 24 – wrapped up victory by bowling Young.
Ireland will play their final match against Scotland on Monday before heading to the World Cup at the end of the month.