Intercontinental Cup: Ireland suffer innings defeat by Afghanistan in India
|Intercontinental Cup, Greater Noida (day three of four):|
|Afghanistan 537-8 dec: Stanikzai 145, Zazai 103 not out, Shahzad 85, Jamal 73; Dockrell 3-160|
|Ireland 261: Balbirnie 62, Anderson 61, Joyce 45, Rashid Khan 5-99 &104: Mohammed Nabi 6-40, Rashid Khan 3-44|
|Afghanistan (20 pts) beat Ireland (0 pts) by an innings and 172 runs|
|Scorecard (external site)|
Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the Test Challenge - and the chance to become a full-member nation of the ICC - suffered a serious blow as they slumped to an innings and 172-run defeat by Afghanistan in Greater Noida.
The Intercontinental Cup loss drops Ireland from first to second in the table with two matches to go, Ireland next playing the Netherlands in August.
The winner of the group will play off against the lowest ranked Test side (currently Zimbabwe) in 2018 for full status.
The three-day loss is only Ireland's third in the 13-year history of the tournament.
Resuming their first innings on 170-7 - still 367 runs in arrears - John Anderson showed the necessary application as he scored an unbeaten 61 from 175 balls.
He has now passed the 50 mark in all five matches he has played in the competition.
He received admirable support from the tail, sharing stands of 43 with Andrew McBrine (18) for the eighth wicket and 41 for the last with Peter Chase (18) as Ireland added 91 to their overnight total.
The determination with which the Irish tail had resisted Afghanistan and leg-spinner Rashid Khan - who failed to add to his five-wicket tally - offered hope the Irish could mount a spirited resistance with the bat.
It was not to be, however, as Mohammed Nabi took six wickets in Ireland's second innings, and teenage leg-spinner Rashid 3-44, leaving both with a match haul of eight wickets apiece.
The dismissals of Anderson and Joyce in the same Nabi over seemed to knock all resistance out of the Irish, with Niall O'Brien and Gary Wilson the joint top scorers with only 15 apiece.
Ireland's next match in the competition is against Netherlands at home in August before they finish with a clash against Scotland in the UAE.
They will now have to rely on results elsewhere - hoping either Hong Kong or UAE can do them a favour - if they are to have any hope of retaining their title and going forward to the Test Challenge.
Before then, they will face England in two one-day internationals at Bristol and Lord's on 5 and 7 May.