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Joyce will stay in opener's role as Stirling is told to finish it

By Ian Callender

Ireland captain William Porterfield has confirmed that Ed Joyce will be his opening batting partner for the rest of the series against Afghanistan, which continues today at Stormont (10.45am).

Even the PA announcer got it wrong when the two experienced left handers went out to the middle in Tuesday's first one-day international as everyone was caught by surprise that Paul Stirling, who had opened for Ireland in the last 143 of his 180 matches in every format, was still in the players' tent.

Rumours abounded that Stirling was injured, but then came the news that he would bat at No.6 and it was left to the captain to explain the change in his post-match press conference.

"We need power at the back end (of the innings). Stirlo has got that and, although it is not a long-term plan, we will try it for this series," said Porterfield.

"A lot of games are won in the last 20 overs and he, Kevin O'Brien and Andy McBrine, after the way he played against Sri Lanka, have the firepower to see us home. It wasn't the case today but we just needed to be one or two wickets less down."

So, a few teething problems in the first attempt with the new batting order but Porterfield wasn't entirely accurate in the state of the game when his big hitters came to the middle.

Indeed, Ireland are unlikely to be in a much better position in any of the remaining games this summer. When O'Brien came to the middle at the fall of the third wicket they needed just 137 from 23 overs, and it looked even more comfortable when Stirling joined him one wicket later with just 91 required from 94 balls.

But both O'Brien and Stirling were caught at long-off, and when McBrine was trapped leg before two overs later, Ireland suddenly needed 56 from 39 balls but with only three wickets left. They scored 16.

It is also significant that all three were dismissed by slow bowlers and Porterfield admitted they that they did know what to expect from Rashid Khan, the 17-year-old Afghanistan leg spinner, who took three for 28 in his 10 overs.

"It's the first time we have seen the leggie and we didn't know how to score off him, so we have minimise those dots in the middle of the innings going forward," he added.

Ireland are forced to make one change for today's game as John Anderson has been ruled out with concussion having been hit on the helmet by a Shapoor Zadran bouncer on Tuesday. It could be a way back in for Gary Wilson or see a debut for Sean Terry.

Meanwhile, NCU have continued their impressive season at youth level by winning the Under 17-inter-pro series in Dublin.

Victories over Leinster and NCU settled the tournament even before Leinster's nine wickets win over North West in the final match yesterday.

Scores: North West 151 (G Kennedy 51, M Hutchinson 30; C Shannon 3-30, S Nelson 2-14, M Topping 2-18) NCU 152-4 (J Burton 57 not out, J McClean 56 not out; V Chopra 3-20). NCU U17s won by 6 wickets.

Leinster 126 (J Grassi 47; C Shannon 3-16, M Topping 3-19, M Foster 3-33) NCU 127-6 (R McConkey 53). NCU U17s won by 4 wickets.

North West 158 (M Hutchinson 42, M McCloskey 33, V Chopra 24; J Lyttle 4-16) Leinster 159-1 (J Grassi 110, S Murphy 42 not out). Leinster U17s won by 9 wickets.

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