Ireland took another giant leap towards their third successive appearance at the ICC Cricket World Cup with a 59 run success over Afghanistan at Clontarf yesterday.
The hard-fought victory was a huge statement of intent against the team accepted as Ireland’s most dangerous opponents.
Indeed, when Afghanistan reduced their hosts to 106 for eight after 31 overs, it was Ireland who were staring defeat in the face. But, yet again, the number one Associate side showed why they remain the team to beat.
Ed Joyce, first in partnership with Tim Murtagh and then George Dockrell, put on 57 for the last two wickets and when Trent Johnston and a golden spell from Alex Cusack left Afghanistan reeling at 33 for five, it was only a matter of time.
In the end, Ireland romped home with almost 17 overs to spare and they can now look forward to doing it all over again next week, against the same opposition at Rathmines in the Intercontinental Cup.
This was Ireland’s 10th lowest total in 73 one-day internationals, and their lowest against a fellow Associate, but 163 was worth a lot more on a sluggish pitch still recovering from the rain, which washed out the first game between the teams without a ball bowled.
It was a big toss to win and the last thing out-of-form captain William Porterfield wanted was to bat first in helpful bowling conditions.
After two golden ducks, he got off the mark, to his 16th ball, but nine balls later, he was caught at long-leg for his eighth successive single figure score for county and country.
Paul Stirling had already been dismissed for six and when Kevin O’Brien was run out, ball-watching, to a fair call by Joyce, after the most entertaining innings of the day — 31 off 32 balls with six fours and a six — Ireland had to go into rearguard mode. Joyce was the ideal batsman to play that role and 67 from 124 balls with six fours was just what was required.
Finally making an appearance in the middle for Ireland at the third attempt, Murtagh got off the mark with a boundary and he and Dockrell stayed a vital 17 overs with Joyce.
Murtagh is still waiting for his first wicket, despite getting three spells, and it was the spinners, Stirling and Dockrell, who finished the day’s action with two wickets apiece for a miserly 14 runs apiece for a miserly 14 runs.