Cusack's five seals comfortable win for Ireland
Alex Cusack's maiden five-wicket haul helped Ireland stroll to a 39-run win against Afghanistan on the reserve day at Rotterdam. Ireland had scored 237 on Saturday before rain intervened and forced the opposition to begin their chase today.
The Afghanistan openers began steadily, adding 32, before the seamer Cusack struck. He removed Noor Ali and Mohammad Shahzad in one over before George Dockrell got rid of the captain Nowroz Mangal for a duck. Shabir Noori and Azghar Stanikzai resisted with a stand of 49 but that was the highest partnership Afghanistan could manage. Noori made a patient 38 off 78 balls before he was dismissed by Andrew White, while Stanikzai was trapped lbw to Cusack. Afghanistan had lost half their side for 114 by the 31st over and the lower order made starts but couldn't script a fightback. Cusack took two more lower-order wickets to finish with 5 for 20.
The win was set up by Andrew Poynter who top scored with 78, supported by useful contributions by Kevin O'Brien and Trent Johnston. Afghanistan held the initiative initially as their seamers, Khaliq Dad and Shapoor Zadran, made early inroads to reduce Ireland to 27 for 3. But Ireland recovered via two seventy-plus stands spearheaded by Poynter. Kevin O'Brien departed for 44 before White joined Poynter to add a quick 73 in 12 overs. Johnston then made a cameo unbeaten 42 off 28 balls to lift the score to 237 before rain forced an early finish to the day. Hamid Hassan, who claimed the wicket of Poynter for 78, took 3 for 53.
Trent Johnston was delighted with Ireland's success. "I thought the toss was very important on this wicket. We posted a pretty good total and we knew if we could get early wickets and put pressure, our spinners will come through and do the job," he said. "Our spinners didn't bowl as well as we all expected, but Alex Cusack bowled fantastically well and took five wickets. I thought we built a lot of pressure on them and didn't give them any loose balls which they like."
Johnston was all praise for Poynter and Cusack: "Both were outstanding. [Andrew] Poynter has just come back into the side after a couple of years off, I suppose. But he got his chances in the absence of some key players due to their county commitments and he's making full use of them. This is something that all the youngsters need to do.
"People think Ireland is a one generation team. We have just got to have a look at him. He [Andrew Poynter] has come back into the team and he has 10-12 years of international cricket ahead of him. To come out here and score 80-odd runs on this wicket is an outstanding achievement."