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Bowlers, Ihsanullah lead Afghanistan to series win

Afghanistan 127 for 2 (Ihsanullah 57*, Hashmatullah 34*) beat Ireland 124 (Wilson 23, Rashid 3-18, Aftab 2-22) by eight wickets

Ireland opted to bat upon winning the toss on a tired pitch, but that was about the only thing they did right as their batsmen surrendered meekly against a disciplined Afghanistan attack and were shot out for 124. After that, not even Tim Murtagh, with eight wickets in the last two matches, could save them the ignominy of a heavy defeat as the visitors hurtled to their target to clinch the series 2-1.

The moth-eaten adage you miss, I hit couldn't have been reinforced stronger as five Ireland batsmen fell lbw to a very straight line of attack, largely due to their penchant for wanting to work the ball square off their pads, three of those off Rashid Khan's staple googly. Their troubles, however, started much sooner, between overs nine and 11 to be specific.

Till then, they had done well to recover from the early loss of Paul Stirling, who fell caught behind for two in his 100th ODI, poking at a length ball from Aftab Alam that moved away fractionally. William Porterfield and Andy Balbirnie looked set before the former became the first of six Ireland batsmen to cross double figures and squander the start. Looking to drive Alam, he was early into the shot, offering a simple catch to Asghar Afghan at mid-off, who fumbled twice before latching on. Porterfield fell for a painstaking 34-ball 14, followed by Niall O' Brien, who was slightly unlucky to be adjudged lbw off Gulbadin Naib to one that looked to be going over the stumps. When Balbirnie, the in-form batsman with two fifties in the series, nicked Gulbadin to the wicketkeeper four balls later, Ireland had suddenly been reduced to 39 for 4 in the blink of an eye.

Curiously, the next 31 balls was the most productive phase for Ireland as Kevin O'Brien and Simi Singh counter-attacked. The 15th over yielded 13 runs - comfortably the most in the innings - as both batsmen used the pull shot to good effect against some wayward bowling from Gulbadin. But the next over saw the introduction of Rashid and he struck off the last ball the over, trapping Kevin O'Brien plumb in front as the batsman looked to work a googly towards square leg, and missed. Simi fell to the same mode of dismissal in Rashid's next over, leaving Ireland reeling at 72 for six. Gary Wilson and Andy McBrine then had a 37-run stand, also the best of the Ireland innings, but that it came so late was part of the problem rather than the solution. And when captain Asghar pinned Wilson in front for only his second ODI scalp, the end was imminent as Rashid and Mohammad Nabi polished off the tail.

In response, Afghanistan appeared in a hurry to get the runs and lost Mohammad Shahzad early in the process. Shahzad's poor tour continued as his upper cut off Boyd Rankin landed in the lap of third man. But that hardly made any difference to Afghanistan's gung-ho approach, as opener Ihsanullah, who had replaced Hazratullah Zazai, and Rahmat Shah continued to attack, taking Afghanistan to 53 in quick time, before the latter fell lbw to Murtagh at the stroke of lunch. Ihsanullah was unperturbed by the break in play and returned to complete his third ODI fifty in the company of Hashmatullah Shahidi, who struck 34, as the duo took Afghanistan home.