Rashid magic trumps Stirling heroics as Afghanistan sweep ODI series
Hits 48 and picks up four wickets as Afghanistan make ideal start to World Cup Super League campaign
Afghanistan 266 for 9 (Rashid 48, Young 3-61, Singh 3-37) beat Ireland 230 (Stirling 118, Rashid 4-29) by 36 runs
Rashid Khan top-scored with 48 off 40 balls from No. 9 before ripping out Ireland's middle order with four cheap wickets to seal a 3-0 clean sweep for Afghanistan and provide them with the ideal start to their World Cup Super League campaign.
Ireland had been well-placed in their chase of 267, with Paul Stirling's fourth hundred in his last six ODI innings driving their reply. After he was bowled with 14 overs remaining, they struggled to score as Afghanistan's spinners turned the screws, and eventually fell 36 runs short.
Afghanistan lost four wickets inside 12 overs after being asked to bat first, with Craig Young removing each of the top three in the powerplay and Andy McBrine having Hashmatullah Shahidi caught in the gully. Captain Asghar Afghan led the rebuilding efforts with Mohammad Nabi for company, but they found run-scoring difficult as McBrine and Simi Singh bowled tightly in tandem through the middle overs.
Singh trapped Nabi lbw and had Afghan caught at deep midwicket. Then, Najibullah Zadran was caught at slip via the glove when reverse-sweeping - giving part-timer Harry Tector his first international wicket - as Afghanistan were in some trouble at 163 for 7. But in a typically inventive innings of 40, which included three sixes, Rashid ensured they reached a competitive score, before last-wicket pair Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Naveen-ul-Haq took 22 from the final 11 balls to drag them up to 266.
James McCollum opened the batting in Ireland's reply after being picked ahead of Kevin O'Brien, who had struggled for runs throughout this tour, but was given out lbw early on after being struck in front by Mujeeb. He opted not to review the decision, but replays indicated it would have gone on to hit leg stump.
But by that stage Stirling was up and running, having swung Naveen over midwicket in the fifth over and cracked him for five fours in his first four overs. He then slapped Nabi for two sixes in the eighth and brought up a 38-ball half-century by repeating the trick off Mujeeb, but lost an important partner in captain Andy Balbirnie, who was caught behind via a thin edge when sweeping in the 10th.
Stirling continued to force the pace in a 61-run stand with Tector, surviving on review after being given out lbw against Nabi, but Rashid struck a telling blow in his first over when he bowled Tector with a wicked googly. Stirling's scoring rate slowed significantly as he approached his ton, attempting to play Rashid out, but he brought up the landmark off his 101st ball in the 28th over. It was his 12th hundred in ODI, taking him clear off William Porterfield's previous Ireland record.
But Rashid continued to chip away, removing Curtis Campher for 12 to leave Ireland four down. Stirling found another useful partner in Lorcan Tucker, who cracked Mujeeb for two fours, but after Stirling was bowled for 118 via a thin edge, the innings quickly faded away.
Rashid bowled Tucker with another googly to snare his third, before Mark Adair and Singh were both run out and Young became the third Irishman bowled by a Rashid googly to leave them nine down. Naveen trapped McBrine lbw to complete the win.
The result gives Afghanistan 30 points in the nascent World Cup Super League table, while for Ireland it has significantly damaged their chances of automatic qualification. They had won the third ODI of their series in England last summer and hoped to repeat the trick on Tuesday, but their failure to do so leaves them with 10 points after six games and needing several upsets if they are to avoid the qualifying tournament.