Ireland survive wobble to win
Ireland 181 for 7 (Joyce 51, Balbirnie 31*, Ahmadi 4-37) beat Afghanistan 180 (Ahmadi 81, Zadran 45, Dockrell 4-35) by three wickets
Ed Joyce's 51 and a steady 52-run partnership between Andy Balbirnie and Alex Cusack helped Ireland survive a couple of batting wobbles to secure a three-wicket win against Afghanistan in their opening game of the Dubai triangular series. Afghanistan's loss meant that Javed Ahmadi's career-best performance with the bat and ball was in vain.
Ireland did not get off to the strongest of starts after their bowlers had dismissed Afghanistan for 180. Gary Wilson's wicket in the 10th over brought the score to 29 for 3 before a steady 44-run partnership between Joyce and Niall O'Brien put the chase on track again. Ahmadi's 10 overs of off-spin, however, threatened to turn the advantage Afghanistan's way as he controlled the runs and chipped away at the line-up, accounting for O'Brien and Joyce, who had reached his ninth ODI fifty off 66 deliveries. In the penultimate over of his spell, Ahmadi dismissed Kevin O'Brien and John Mooney within three deliveries to leave Ireland at 129 for 7.
Afghanistan's low score meant that Ireland had time on their side, and Balbirnie and Cusack focused on turning the strike over, while hitting the occasional boundary. Until Cusack struck three successive fours to help Ireland draw level with Afghanistan's score, the pair had hit only three fours in 11 overs.
Apart from taking a career-best 4 for 37, Ahmadi was also one of only two batsmen to prop Afghanistan's innings after they were put in to bat by Ireland. Ahmadi kept finding the boundary right from the start of the innings, thumping John Mooney for a six in the second over of the game, but could only watch from the other end as Afghanistan stumbled, with five of the top six batsmen contributing in single figures. Ahmadi had scored 54 of the side's 81 runs by the time Mohammad Nabi was dismissed in the 20th over to leave the score at 81 for 5. It was also his second successive fifty, after his 74 against Scotland in the last game.
Ahmadi strung together a 49-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Najibullah Zadran before falling for his highest ODI score of 81. Zadran stretched the score further with his 45 off 63 balls but once he was dismissed by Cusack, George Dockrell cleaned up the tail by the 45th over. Apart from Dockrell's 4 for 35, John Mooney picked up two wickets while Paul Stirling had returns of 9-1-13-0.