Rahmat Shah produced a brilliant unbeaten century to steer Afghanistan to victory over Ireland and secure an unassailable 2-0 lead in their one-day international series in Abu Dhabi.
Rahmat made 103 from 109 balls as Afghanistan reached their victory target of 260 with 28 balls to spare, the right-hander hitting two sixes and 10 fours.
Hashmatullah Shahidi provided Rahmat with superb support with 82 from 100 balls as the pair put on 184 for the third wicket following the loss of openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (31) and Javed Ahmadi (16).
Hashmatullah eventually fell with Afghanistan needing 28 to win, but a quickfire 21 from captain Asghar Afghan helped see his side comfortably over the line.
Ireland had earlier won the toss and elected to bat, with opener Paul Stirling making a brilliant 128 from 132 balls which featured four sixes and 12 boundaries as he overtook William Porterfield as Ireland’s leading international run-scorer and equalled Porterfield for the most ODI tons by an Irishman.
Stirling and Curtis Campher (47) put on 106 for the fourth wicket but Afghanistan’s bowlers kept the run rate down and Ireland eventually had to settle for a total of 259 for nine from their 50 overs.
Naveen-ul-Haq got the crucial wicket of Stirling and finished with figures of four for 42 from his 10 overs.
“At the halfway stage we were in the game, but would have liked a few more having batted so well – particularly Paul again playing so beautifully to set us up. We probably lost a bit of momentum there at the back end. With 260 we felt in the game, but we didn’t have enough on a pitch that played a bit slower and deader as the day went on,” said Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie.
“We definitely expected the pitch to turn a bit more in the second innings, but it probably didn’t turn as much as we would have liked.
“I still think we can do better with the bat – apart from Paul and Curtis, there weren’t a lot of positives to take. We played well the other day getting 270, and we set ourselves up to mount a good total here today, but we weren’t able to do that, and against this Afghan side that has a lot of power we were up against it.
“Paul seems to have a fantastic tour every time we go away – he was very close to the late Roy Torrens who we unfortunately lost yesterday, and you could see that that innings today was for him.
“There are definitely players ready to go in the wings, and that’s the beauty of this squad that there are a number of players knocking on the door. We picked the guys for these two games that we thought could win some games, and they have been trying – particularly the bowlers who have been battling hard on a wicket not conducive to our style of bowling.
“The lads are hard on themselves, they’ll be really disappointed with the last two games, but as a squad we’ve got to be ready to rebound and ready to go – we’ve only a day between games, and we’ve got to pick ourselves up and get some points towards this World Cup Super League.”