DEHRADUN (AP) — Afghanistan buckled Ireland through its spinners for a five-wicket victory in the first one-day international despite a gallant 89 by opener Paul Stirling Feb. 28.
Ireland was bowled out for 161 in the last over, and Afghanistan reached 165-5 in the 42nd over to take the opener in the five-match series.
“The first game is always important,” Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan said. “Sometimes the wicket is like that, and that’s why we had to play carefully.”
Ireland elected to bat first and was reduced to 14-3 by offspinner Mujeeb Ur Rehman, and 69-6. Stirling scored his second half-century of the tour, 89 off 150 balls, and was the last man out, bowled by medium-pacer Gulbadin Naib.
Mujeeb, who bowled with the new ball, finished with figures of 10-3-14-3 as the Irish batsmen continued to struggle against spin after losing the Twenty20 series 3-0.
George Dockrell, one of only three Ireland batsmen to reach double figures, on 37, gave his team’s total some respectability by combining with Stirling for 76 runs for the seventh wicket.
But fast bowler Dawlat Zadran, returning to ODIs after nearly a year due to a knee injury, wrapped up the tail with 3-35.
Mohammad Shahzad, with 43, and new Afghan batting sensation, 20-year-old Hazratullah Zazai, with 25, provided a steady start of 43. Zazai, tipped to make the Cricket World Cup squad, was brilliantly caught by Kevin O’Brien on the long on boundary.
Boyd Rankin dismissed Shahzad and Rahmat Shah in successive overs before Naib top-scored with 46 off 61 balls despite Simi Singh bowling a tidy 10 overs and returning 1-19.
Naib fell to a low return catch to Dockrell with only nine required for victory, and Najibullah Zadran finished the game in style by hitting the left-arm spinner for two sixes in the same over.
“If we had (picked wickets) in the first five, six overs, we would have given ourselves a chance,” Ireland captain William Porterfield said. He fell to Mujeeb on 1 in his first over.