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Blow for Ireland as O'Brien looks likely to miss the series decider with Afghanistan

By Ian Callender in Gt Noida

Man of the match Kevin O'Brien is almost certain to miss Ireland's series decider against Afghanistan tomorrow with the same hamstring injury which kept him out of the second and third one-day internationals.

O'Brien had to go off injured just 14 balls into his return to action yesterday but came back to steer Ireland to a thrilling three-wicket victory and level the five-match series at 2-2.

It is now six years since O'Brien became a national hero in India with his match-winning century in the World Cup against England, but the fans here hadn't forgotten those heroics as they cheered every one of his undefeated 72 runs from 60 balls, with eight fours and two sixes as Ireland won with 19 balls left.

O'Brien had already starred with the new ball, in place of Peter Chase who was dropped, taking a wicket in each of his opening overs to reduce Afghanistan to 11 for three. He came back to take a fourth in his penultimate over, but the elusive five-for in an Ireland shirt still eludes him.

Afghanistan still made Ireland's victory target much more difficult than it should have been as their lower order again made hay against Ireland's four spinners, turning 83 for seven in the 24th over into 220 all out, using all but one ball of their innings.

In contrast, one of Ireland's top five has been in the middle for their only two victories - and that is no coincidence. But at least they seem to be taming teenage leg spinner Rashid Khan, restricted to two wickets.

The over that significantly turned the match Ireland's way was the 35th when O'Brien hit the 18-year-old for a six and a four and, under pressure, he then sent down five wides for a total of 18 off the over. That left Ireland needing just 59 from the last 15 and, although Gary Wilson perished in the deep off Rashid with still 25 needed, George Dockrell looked as comfortable as anyone against Rashid to help finish the job.

The fact that Ireland's 'big three' of Ed Joyce, Paul Stirling and captain William Porterfield were all back in the pavilion at the start of the 16th over, with just 59 on the board, underlined the Irish effort and they're looking like a good team once again.

Scores: Afghanistan 220 (49.5 overs, Shafiquallah 42; K O'Brien 4-26, J Mulder 3-57, A McBrine 2-39, T Murtagh 1-26) Ireland 224-7 (46.5 overs, K O'Brien 72 not out, G Wilson 41, P Stirling 28, E Joyce 24, A Balbirnie 22, W Porterfield 6, S Thompson 8, A McBrine 5, G Dockrell 5 not out; Mohammad Nabi 4-30). Ireland won by 3 wickets

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