DEHRADUN — Ireland drew the limited-overs series against Afghanistan 2-2 with a five-wicket victory in the fifth and final ODI March 10.
The struggles of Afghanistan’s top order batsmen continued in the series when they were restricted to 216-6 after Ireland won the toss and elected to field.
Veteran Paul Stirling (70) and Andy Balbirnie (68) then led Ireland’s run-chase to 219-5 in 47.2 overs.
Afghanistan whitewashed Ireland 3-0 in the Twenty20 series, but rotated its batsmen more frequently in the ODI series as it looked to settle on its final squad for the Cricket World Cup in May.
But the rotation policy didn’t work well for Afghanistan. The top order couldn’t settle down enough to counter the spinners of Ireland on wickets that suited slow bowlers.
“We are targeting the World Cup, so we made changes in every match,” Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan said as his team made five changes in the previous match on Saturday. “Top order’s (batting) is a concern, but the test match should offer an opportunity.”
Just as in the previous games, Afghanistan stuttered to 40-4 early in its innings against the spin of George Dockrell (2-46) and Andy McBrine (1-30).
Experienced Mohammad Shahzad started the innings with a straight six off Tim Murtagh’s first ball but three balls later he got a leading edge off the seamer and was caught at mid-off.
Despite dropping multiple catches, Ireland bowlers kept on coming back with Dockrell removing Rahmat Shah and Samiullah Shinwari off successive deliveries.
Captain Asghar Afghan fought a lone battle with an innings of 82 off 111 balls before he retired hurt in the last over due to a hamstring injury.
Afghanistan then benefited from two let-offs in the 30s when Balbirnie and captain William Porterfield dropped skiers. The chances proved costly as Afghanistan added 76 runs with Mohammad Nabi (40) and added a further 65 runs with Rashid Khan, who remained unbeaten on 35.
Stirling and Porterfield featured in a solid opening stand of 57 runs before the Ireland captain was bowled by debutante left-arm spinner Zahir Khan (2-55).
Stirling hit seven boundaries and two sixes in his 88-ball knock but was unlucky to be given out lbw off Rashid in the 31st over as the television replays showed the ball could have missed the off stump.
Balbirnie, who smashed a century in the third ODI, was clean bowled by Mujeeb Ur Rehman with Ireland needing only 10 runs for victory. Stuart Poynter raised the victory with a four off Nabi’s offspin.
The teams will next play in a one-off test starting March 15.