Our prediction is Afghanistan to win!
Afghanistan and Ireland meet again just a couple of days after the first of three Twenty20 Internationals in Dehra Dun, India. Afghanistan survived being reduced to 50 for five to beat Ireland in the opener earlier this week by five wickets.7
Their victory now means Afghanistan lead the head-to-head between these two nations 10-3 and they have extended their run since losing to Ireland to eight games.
Ireland also made a poor start to their innings and relied on some late hitting to get them up to 132 – a score that they could not defend. This match is a game between contrasting styles – Ireland with an attack dominated by their pace bowlers against an Afghanistan side packed with wily spinners.
Afghanistan’s performance in the first ODI belied a side that had been out of Twenty20 action for a number of months as they limited Ireland to just 132 for six with Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan both taking a brace of wickets. With the bat, they struggled early on but relied on the experience of Nabi and Najibullah Zadran to bring them home. Their unbeaten stand of 86 in 66 balls broke Irish hearts.
Ordinarily, it would be a surprise to see them make any changes for the next match. They will be hoping their top order scores more runs this time, but should resist the temptation to make any knee-jerk changes; the nature of T20 cricket is that you will fail from time to time. They decided against handing a debut to either Zahir Khan or Zia-Ur-Rehman but captain Asghar Afghan admitted in the post-match interview that they will look to get their youngsters some experience as they build for the future. They could well wait for the final game but might just spring a surprise with a change or two here.
Hazratullah Zazai, Asghar Afghan (c), Samiullah Shenwari, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Najibullah Zadran, Shafiqullah (wk), Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Fareed Ahmed.
Farid Malik, Karim Janat, Asghar Afghan, Usman Ghani, Hazratullah Zazai, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, N Zadran, Mohammad Nabi
So near, yet so far for Ireland, who must have felt when they had Afghanistan in trouble that they were about to end their dismal run against them. Just four players reached double figures in their score of 132 for six, which always looked a little under what was required. The opening partnership of Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien failed for the first time in a while and it was left to Stuart Thompson, George Dockrell and Stuart Poynter to get them up to some sort of score.
Where they will be most disappointed is with the ball. Early strikes from Boyd Rankin, Peter Chase and Josh Little had Afghanistan in big trouble, but they couldn’t finish off the job. Thompson was unable to complete his overs and may be a doubt for this match with a hamstring strain. They could replace him with Andrew McBrine, who offers another spin option, or turn to James Shannon or Harry Tector, who also bowl spin. Bringing in Lorcan Tucker would strengthen their batting at the expense of another bowler.
Paul Stirling (c), Kevin O’Brien, Andrew Balbirnie, Andrew McBrine, Simi Singh, George Dockrell, Shane Getkate, Staurt Poynter (wk), Josh Little, Boyd Rankin, Peter Chase
Joshua Little, Shane Getkate, Simi Singh, George Dockrell, Peter Chase, Paul Stirling, Kevin O'Brien, WB Rankin, Stuart Poynter, Lorcan Tucker, Andy Balbirnie
The forecast in the build-up to the match is hot, sunny and dry with no chance of any rain around. That should present more opportunities for spin bowlers to shine, especially if the pitch dries and cracks a little.
Although the first game between these two bucked the trend, this venue tends to see the runs flowing as it quite small. Afghanistan have won all four T20I matches here, and the average score batting first is 144. It takes spin, as Afghanistan’s trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rehman and Nabi showed in the first game.
Ireland won the toss in the first match and chose to bat first, but Afghanistan would have been happy to chase as they knew this is a venue where dew can make it hard to grip the ball when bowling. It also favours the side batting second with the ball racing across the outfield. Ireland have had more success batting second recently so both sides will be looking to chase given the dew factor.
Afghanistan will have been delighted to have been able to continue their long winning run against Ireland going. They made the most of their knowledge of conditions and managed to recover well when under pressure. Ireland made initial breakthroughs but their inability to finish off the job will be hugely disappointing. The Afghans will not be complacent, however. One or both of Stirling and O’Brien will get going at some point and Stuart Poynter again showed his power at the death. Ireland might just be lacking enough spin bowling stocks at the moment to really strangle the runs and so Afghanistan still have the edge and should seal the series.
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