Abu Dhabi: A superb 127 from debutant Rahmanullah Gurbaz helped Afghanistan to a 16-run win over Ireland in the first of three one-day internationals in Abu Dhabi.
The opener anchored the Afghans’ innings before Rashid Khan hit 55 off 30 balls to set Ireland 288 to win.
Andy McBrine was the pick of the bowlers with 5-29, but only Lorcan Tucker made a big impact with the bat.
The wicketkeeper’s career-best 83 was not enough for Ireland to trouble Afghanistan’s total.
The result gives Afghanistan 10 World Cup Super League points, with 20 more on offer from the remaining two games in the current series.
After missing out on the 2019 World Cup following defeat by Afghanistan in a winner-takes-all encounter, Ireland know they cannot afford a series whitewash should they wish to ensure qualification for the 2023 tournament.
Three days on from Simi Singh’s inspirational display in Ireland’s series-levelling win over the United Arab Emirates, it looked as though McBrine had positioned himself to be the next hero in green.
The County Tyrone spinner found a much needed breakthrough in the 21st over, removing Javed Ahmadi to end the 127-run opening partnership.
The next 10 overs belonged to McBrine as he removed four more of Afghanistan’s top six in a blistering spell that saw him become the eighth Irishman to pass the 50-wicket mark in ODIs.
Despite his top order batsmen falling around him, Gurbaz remained at the crease long enough to see off McBrine’s spell and anchor his side towards a decent total.
The debutant hit nine sixes before finally being caught by Singh on the boundary off the bowling of Gareth Delany in the 38th over.
The wicket reignited Irish hopes of a chase below 250 – but Rashid’s late blitz ultimately cost Ireland dearly.
The spinner ferociously attacked the bowling of Craig Young and Barry McCarthy, hitting 26 in the final two overs to launch his side considerably closer to 300.