Zadran onslaught too much for Ireland
Afghanistan 246 for 8 (N Zadran 83, Shenwari 50, Young 3-45, K O'Brien 3-49) beat Ireland 175 (Hassan 3-24) by 71 runs
Afghanistan responded to their heavy defeat against Scotland by inflicting a 71-run loss on Ireland which means the final match of the tri-series on Monday will decide who comes out on top.
Najibullah Zadran produced the key performance for Afghanistan with his maiden ODI fifty, a 50-ball 83, which revived a stuttering innings and gave them a total that was expertly defended. Zadran did not get to the crease until the 33rd over and initially the fireworks were limited as he moved to 35 at a run-a-ball, before cutting loose between overs 45 and 47 as the three-over period brought 52 runs.
Alex Cusack and George Dockrell were the bowlers to suffer. Cusack had previously gone for 22 off seven overs before being dispatched for 35 off two, the majority to Zadran who took his sixes tally to six before top-edging a pull.
Zadran's impact meant Afghanistan added 119 in the last 13 overs of their innings having crept to 100 for 3 after 30 following a testing new-ball spell from Craig Young who had both openers caught behind the wicket. Asghar Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari steadied the innings and Shenwari batted until the 42nd over for a half-century that came off 95 balls.
It will be satisfying for the coach, Andy Moles, to see how his batsmen did not panic at the stodgy scoring rate as one of the key aspects he has been trying to instil is to encourage them to keep a clam head in tough situations.
Afghanistan also needed a calm head as they began defending the total with Paul Stirling helping Ireland to a brisk start with 36 off 24 balls but his departure, lbw to Hamid Hassan, brought a lull in proceedings as Hassan and Mohammad Nabi built pressure.
Ed Joyce was just threatening to break free when he chipped a return catch to Javed Ahmadi and Ireland's innings was notable for six of the top seven reaching double figures without anyone passing Stirling's 36.
Ireland remain top of the table despite the defeat and a win against Scotland will keep them there, but the margin of the loss has significantly impacted their net run-rate and any size of victory for Scotland - who have a positive net run-rate - will see them take the top spot.