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O'Brien blow adds to Ireland's ODI agony

By Ian Callender

Paul Stirling was named player of the series in Greater Noida but his efforts were not enough to prevent Afghanistan winning the final one-day international to seal a 3-2 victory.

And Ireland's task in next week's top of the table Intercontinental Cup clash has also got tougher with the news that Kevin O'Brien has a Grade 2 hamstring tear, ruling him out of the four-day game with the Afghans. He flies home today with Andrew Balbirnie staying on to take his place in the squad.

O'Brien's knack of taking wickets here - 11 in his last three games - was missed yesterday as Ireland took only three in 48.4 overs when Afghanistan, batting second for the first time in the series, reached their victory target of 230.

Rahmat Shah was the immovable object, his 108 not out more than twice as many as any Ireland batsman despite the top four all getting into the 30s.

But Stirling's 51 was an underwhelming top score with Ed Joyce, William Porterfield and Niall O'Brien - the replacement for his brother yesterday - all dismissed when well set.

Rashid Khan, inevitably, was the destroyer as Afghanistan changed their plan to make a teenager who had already taken 12 wickets in the first four games even more effective. He came on in the 13th over - 10 overs earlier than previously - and with his 11th ball he bowled Joyce, who was already enjoying his second life.

Stirling was dropped before he had scored, by Rashid at first slip, but he was next to go and although Porterfield followed nine overs later, most teams would have been happy to go into the last 18 overs on 157 for three.

Not this Ireland line-up, and certainly not against Rashid and company. The last seven batsmen contributed only 49 between them and could last only 16 overs.

It was Ireland's fifth 'collapse' of the tour and every game had ended in defeat.

Tim Murtagh and Stuart Thompson bowled tightly in the first 10 overs, each taking a wicket, but only one more would fall and that only thanks to an excited Afghan skipper, Asghar Stanikzai, holing out to long on.

But the recalled Samiullah Shenwari, with an entertaining 62 not out from 77, was the perfect complement to Shah's innings and the Irish bowlers had no answers.

They are certain to face many more questions when the teams return in whites on Tuesday.

Scores: Ireland 229 (48.1 overs, P Stirling 51, E Joyce 42, W Porterfield 34, N O'Brien 34, G Dockrell 21, A Balbirnie 7, G Wilson 5, S Thompson 3, A McBrine 12, T Murtagh 1, J Mulder 0 not out; Rashid Khan 4-29, Fareed Malik 3-65, Dawlat Zadran 2-33) Afghanistan 231-3 (48.4 overs, Rahmat Shah 108 not out, Samiullah Shinwari 62 not out, Ashgar Stanikzai 39; T Murtagh 1-36, S Thompson 1-38, G Dockrell 1-58). Afghanistan won by 7 wickets.

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