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Fighting Irish have shown great attitude: Wilson

By Ian Callender

Gary Wilson claims the Ireland team deserve great credit for taking the five-match one-day international series against Afghanistan to the last game after losing the first two matches.

Although they went into this morning's game without Wednesday's man of the match Kevin O'Brien - ruled out by a hamstring injury - his partner in the decisive seventh wicket stand of 66 insists the side are looking forward to the challenge of coming out on top.

"It's been a great series between two evenly matched teams. In these conditions they are favourites, especially when the wicket ends are as dry as they made them for Wednesday's game so we're pleased to take it into the last game," said Wilson.

"To come here on their home patch, after losing the first two games, it would be a helluva effort to win the series 3-2, but everyone's really excited by the challenge."

Ireland's vice-captain accepts that the majority of Ireland's runs must come for their top six batsmen, but with today's pitch the same as the one on which Ireland won the third ODI, the Irish spinners should also play a big part.

"If it's been shaved, we would rather play on that type of pitch as it also brings our spinners into the game, and if I was Rashid Khan (Afghanistan's world class leg spinner) I wouldn't be happy with the pitch," he said.

"He took 13 wickets in the first three games without having to change the pitch."

The 18-year-old had figures of two for 50 from nine overs as Ireland levelled the series on Wednesday, and if they tame him again then it will go a long way to completing the comeback.

It has actually been a poor series so far for Ireland's best batsman Ed Joyce, who is averaging less than 24, and with only one 50 in the seven innings he has played for Ireland since he dominated the home series against the Afghans last summer, the 38-year-old is due a big innings - and Ireland know that when Joyce scores a century, they usually win (seven out of nine with one draw).

Joyce's opening partner Paul Stirling has been Ireland's player of the series so far with 290 runs at an average of 72.5.

Hopefully his 28 in the last game was his 'failure' for this series as the Irish need him to be on fire.

William Porterfield has still to follow up his century in the first game but Andrew Balbirnie proved he can take on and beat Rashid and his presence could yet make up for the absence of Kevin O'Brien.

Older brother Niall O'Brien's hopes of a return are remote, though, as it is Kevin's bowling which had to be replaced and it seemed a straight choice between Peter Chase or Barry McCarthy who, after taking 18 wickets in his first seven internationals at home, has played only three of Ireland's 18 games this winter.

• Niall O'Brien has confirmed he will keep wicket and play for the North West Warriors in this year's 50-over and three-day first class games in the inter-provincial competition.

O'Brien indicated he may also be available to play some club cricket in the North West Premiership.

Belfast Telegraph


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