Ireland v Afghanistan: Rahmanullah Gurbaz hits debut century as Afghans take 16-run win

Andy McBrine
Andy McBrine took a career best 5-29 as Afghanistan posted a total of 287-9
First one-day international, Abu Dhabi
Afghanistan 287-9 (50 overs): Gurbaz 127, Rashid 55; McBrine 5-29
Ireland 271-9 (50 overs): Tucker 83, Stirling 39; Naveen 3-68
Afghanistan won by 16 runs

A superb 127 from debutant Rahmanullah Gurbaz helped Afghanistan to a 16-run win over Ireland in the first of three one-day internationals in Abu Dhabi.

The opener anchored the Afghans' innings before Rashid Khan hit 55 off 30 balls to set Ireland 288 to win.

Andy McBrine was the pick of the bowlers with 5-29, but only Lorcan Tucker made a big impact with the bat.

The wicketkeeper's career-best 83 was not enough for Ireland to trouble Afghanistan's total.

The result gives Afghanistan 10 World Cup Super League points, with 20 more on offer from the remaining two games in the current series.

After missing out on the 2019 World Cup following defeat by Afghanistan in a winner-takes-all encounter, Ireland know they cannot afford a series whitewash should they wish to ensure qualification for the 2023 tournament.

McBrine sparkles as Gurbaz and Rashid lead Afghan charge

Three days on from Simi Singh's inspirational display in Ireland's series-levelling win over the United Arab Emirates, it looked as though McBrine had positioned himself to be the next hero in green.

The County Tyrone spinner found a much needed breakthrough in the 21st over, removing Javed Ahmadi to end the 127-run opening partnership.

The next 10 overs belonged to McBrine as he removed four more of Afghanistan's top six in a blistering spell that saw him become the eighth Irishman to pass the 50-wicket mark in ODIs.

Despite his top order batsmen falling around him, Gurbaz remained at the crease long enough to see off McBrine's spell and anchor his side towards a decent total.

The debutant hit nine sixes before finally being caught by Singh on the boundary off the bowling of Gareth Delany in the 38th over.

The wicket reignited Irish hopes of a chase below 250 - but Rashid's late blitz ultimately cost Ireland dearly.

The spinner ferociously attacked the bowling of Craig Young and Barry McCarthy, hitting 26 in the final two overs to launch his side considerably closer to 300.

Tucker innings not enough for Ireland

Ireland's chances of starting with a similarly effective opening stand were dashed inside three overs when Kevin O'Brien was trapped lbw to Naveen-ul-Haq.

The lack of a match-defining partnership was what ultimately put paid to Ireland's chances with Andrew Balbirnie (15), Paul Stirling (39) and Harry Tector (28) all falling after promising starts.

Lorcan Tucker's 83 was his highest ODI score and the second time he has passed the half century

The fifth-wicket combination of two of the country's brightest talents, Tucker and Curtis Campher, breathed life into Ireland's challenge, but their hopes rested on the young pair remaining at the crease until deep into the innings.

Having survived an appeal in the 34th over Campher perished shortly after, falling lbw to Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

With overs running out, Tucker was left with little choice than to launch an all-out offensive which eventually led to his own stumping to bring an end to a valiant innings.

The sides will meet again in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie: "We need to be more consistent - we had a lot of starts there, including myself. Their player kicked on and scored a hundred and played really well. That was really the difference between the two sides.

"But some of our guys are still finding their feet at international cricket and we can take a lot of positives. To score 270 on that wicket was good - but in the end it wasn't enough to win the game today.

"We pretty much knew what we were up against today with Afghanistan, and on a wicket that began to turn. I thought we played them pretty well today, they're skilful bowlers, but we are just as skilful with the bat. We've just got to work as hard as we can off the pitch, and go again.

"We'll probably have a day off on Friday with the second and third games being so close together. We need to rest, but we also need to keep our skills up - and we'll aim to collect 10 or 20 points over the next two games."

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