It was a collapse of some proportion. Ireland, who had looked dominant for a considerable portion of the match, paid the price for making a mess of what should have been a straightforward finish to a chase of 293. From 206 for 2 in the 36th over, they slid drastically to be bowled out for 262 as Afghanistan took a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series in Greater Noida.
And it was Rashid Khan
, the 18-year old legspinner who once again came to the fore, picking up four wickets, including that of Niall O'Brien that triggered the collapse. Rashid had great support from pacer Dawlat Zadran
, who took the wicket that arguably swung the match Afghanistan's way, sending back William Porterfield
, whose ravaging 119 had put Ireland on cruise control.
Rashid was held back until the 19th over of the match, and with Porterfield and Paul Stirling
going great guns, it begged the question if Asghar Stanikzai had missed a trick. His introduction, however, did nothing to put the brakes on the scoring. His first over yielded 11 and he was taken out after a three-over first spell where he had gone at a run a ball.
He was brought back in the 29th over, and struck with his fourth ball, deceiving Stirling with a googly that was harmlessly chipped back to the bowler. Dawlat's double strike next over - first Porterfield, who was caught driving on the up and then Wilson who was trapped leg before by one that skidded on - gave Afghanistan a real sniff, and they never conceded ground thereafter.
The rest of the order crumbled to a combination of poor strokes and good deliveries as an already sluggish surface showed signs of slowing down even more. Amir Hamza conjured up a beauty, opening up Kevin O'Brien
with a length ball that spun away just enough to have him stumped.
Rashid asked more questions of the batsmen, showing great adeptness at using the googly, and struck in each of his last two overs. Tim Murtagh, seeing one drifting away, opened up for a cut but the ball spun in to ping him on the back pad. Then, George Dockrell played for the turn to a quicker one that instead merely straightened and beat the inside edge to trap him in front. By then, Ireland were nine down, and Dawlat wrapped it up when he had Peter Chase top-edge a pull to long-on.
Before the collapse, Porterfield and Stirling had produced a superb display of batting on a slow pitch. Both batsmen demonstrated the importance of singles and kept the score ticking by nudging the ball either side of the wicket. Porterfield established himself as the dominant partner and was immaculate with his shot selection. Stanikzai's attempt to stack up the off-side field and get his bowlers to bowl full outside off was met with a series of reverse sweeps through third man. Along with Stirling, he added 157 for the second wicket at over a run a ball. Even the dismissal of Stirling hardly slowed him down as he raised his ninth ODI century with a punch off Mohammad Nabi, but could not see his team through.
As with the ball, Afghanistan were solid with the bat. Most of their batsmen came good after Stanikzai opted to make first use of the surface. Mohammad Shahzad played a characteristically entertaining 43 off 41 balls, laced with seven fours and a six and dominated an opening partnership of 68. When he fell, it was to his own undoing, ambling across after pushing a Mulder delivery to midwicket.
But Noor Ali Zadran, in the company of Rahmat Shah
, consolidated Afghanistan's position with a second-wicket partnership of 83. Rahmat was all poise and class in his 78, which came with the help of four fours and three sixes. His 92-ball effort took a fair bit out of him, and he fell to a tired shot, holing out to long-on off Kevin O'Brien, Ireland's best bowler on the day. At that point, Afghanistan had lost some ground, having lost three wickets for 46 runs.
Hashmatullah Shahidi and Samiullah Shenwari made up for some of it with a half-century fifth-wicket stand. O'Brien produced a timely double-strike, sending back both batsmen in the space of three balls of the 46th over. But Nabi muscled 34 unbeaten runs off just 19 balls to lift them to what proved to be a very good total on an unhelpful pitch.