Controversy hits Ireland's latest loss to Afghanistan
Afghanistan took an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the one-day international series against Ireland at Stormont but yesterday's match, which the tourists won by 79 runs, was overshadowed by a controversial run-out amid accusations of cheating.
In the sixth over of the Ireland reply, Ed Joyce was run out by a throw from the cover boundary but only because he was standing in the middle of the pitch, waiting for a boundary to be signalled, having seen Mohammad Nabi touch the ball while his feet were clearly behind the rope.
However, much to his amazement, Nabi denied he had touched the ball when he was outside the field of play and with the umpires unsighted they had to take the word of the fielder.
Some five minutes after the incident, Joyce reluctantly left the field and Ireland's best batsman - who had scored 167 runs in the first two games - much to the Afghan's delight was out for just 12.
Ireland captain William Porterfield, who was in the middle with Joyce when it happened said afterwards: "Joycey saw the ball reach the rope, the fielder has come in and said he didn't (touch the ball), and I don't know what footage is out there but the umpires said they had to go on his word, and that's all you can do."
The Afghanistan coach, Lalchand Rajput, said: "The fielder said the first time he touched the ball he was inside the line, and when he went outside the line he said he never touched it. I haven't seen any photographic evidence."
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Captain Ashgar Stanikzai, speaking on behalf of Nabi said: "When he picked up the ball, it wasn't a four, 'it hit my leg' he said 'and I don't know what happened. When I tried my best the second time, it wasn't four.'"
With a victory margin of 79 runs, it is impossible to say it cost Ireland the match but much like the first match of the series, when the Ireland tail folded after Joyce's dismissal, it was a crucial early blow.
Having said all that, however, Ireland cannot rely on Joyce to win every match. Indeed, the opener should have been out three overs earlier, on eight, but he was dropped by Samiullah Shenwari at backward point and then Ireland, if they were looking for any, would have had no excuses.
On the day there was none as a top score of 34 and only one other over 20 was nowhere near enough to make any impression on a victory target of 230. In an unchanged Ireland line-up, after John Anderson was again declared unfit to play following his concussion on Tuesday, the rest of the top four, Porterfield, Sean Terry and Stuart Poynter, were also early dismissals contributing only 40 runs between them.
That immediately put the pressure on Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling in his new role as 'finisher'. It was not the plan to have the finisher in the middle in the 18th over with 163 still required!
For 15 overs they threatened to produce a match winning partnership but on the stroke of the second drinks break, O'Brien played too early at Mohammad Yamin - Afghanistan's fourth new ball bowler of the series - and gave a simple catch to extra cover.
Embarrassingly, the game was all over just 51 balls later with only 20 runs added as the 'mystery' leg spinner Rashid Khan added another four Irish bunnies.
Yet, Ireland were in a much superior position in the 33rd over, even after O'Brien's wicket; Ireland were 130 for five, Aghanistan at the same stage were 109 for six!
The difference was, ironically, Nabi who proceeded to hit 50 and Rashid, from No 8 who finished 60 not out from just 44 balls. The last three overs, bowled by Tim Murtagh, O'Brien and Barry McCarthy went for 44 runs and on the same pitch on which the first game was played, the Afghanistan total was 18 more than Ireland scored then.
Rashid was given two lives, the first on just 17 when he was dropped on the cover boundary, and that was the start of Ireland's pain, which was to get only worse as the heat increased.