| 5.7°C Belfast

Balbirnie expects Ireland to be up to the task against rivals Afghanistan



Confident: Andrew Balbirnie

Confident: Andrew Balbirnie

�INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Confident: Andrew Balbirnie

It is 46 days since Ireland were hammered by the West Indies in a Twenty20 international in St Kitts, "a long time ago in terms of cricket", according to Andrew Balbirnie.

"The exciting thing is we have a lot of T20 cricket to make sure that doesn't happen again, and the lads put in performances every game we play," added the Ireland captain.

The first chance to put that into practice is tomorrow in Greater Noida (8.30am GMT), but with a full-strength Afghanistan in the other dressing room, Balbirnie knows it won't be easy.

He takes confidence, though, that just four days before that nine wickets defeat, Ireland had beaten the Windies by four runs.

"We saw two ends of the spectrum in the space of a week," he adds. "That's how good we can be if we do put in a performance, but playing teams like that when you have a bad day you get absolutely punished.

"But we can look back on that win and it gives us confidence that, when we turn up, we can compete with anyone in their own backyard.

"With a World Cup at the end of the year, that is a huge positive for a group that includes a lot of young players still learning their trade, and to do that against a top team is very satisfying."

Afghanistan are ranked three places higher than the West Indies, and facing Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Zadran and Mohammad Nabi on a spinning surface is the ultimate test for this squad, half of whom have come direct from the pitches of Pretoria, one level down with the Ireland Wolves.

Tomorrow's game is Ireland's 1,000th since the first capped match in 1855, and while they have enjoyed memorable one-off triumphs in World Cups and played a Test match at Lord's, a T20 victory against Afghanistan since Rashid Khan's debut is still on the to do list.

Put simply, even one win in this three-game series would be a greater achievement than beating the 2016 World T20 champions in their own backyard.

Ireland squad: A Balbirnie (capt), G Delany, G Dockrell, S Doheny, S Getkate, J Little, B McCarthy, K O'Brien, B Rankin, S Singh, P Stirling, H Tector, L Tucker, C Young.

Belfast Telegraph