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Porterfield: Now is time to push on with Ireland

 

Getting over a blip: Ireland captain William Porterfield
Getting over a blip: Ireland captain William Porterfield

By Ian Callender

William Porterfield was assured of his place in the Ireland team for the two-match series against Afghanistan at Stormont, starting tomorrow (10.45am), even if he had 'failed' in the final match of the Tri-series on Wednesday.

The Ireland captain had spoken with head coach Graham Ford about his lack of runs but was told he would lead the team next week - the second match is on Tuesday - and with the pressure off, Porterfield went out and scored 94 against Bangladesh, his first half-century in 23 innings.

"No pressure, but I have to prove it wasn't a one-off. I go again on Sunday and in the inter-pros (for North West Warriors) at the end of the month," he said. "I've been in situations like that before. It's different when you feel out of nick or making the same mistakes but I didn't feel like that.

"It would have been nice to kick on and have fun with Stirlo (Paul Stirling) at the end but it was pleasing to spend time out in the middle, it's a performance game."

Porterfield, who has dropped himself to No 4 to allow James McCollum to open the batting, admits he was helped by batting again with Paul Stirling with whom he shared a stand of 174, an Ireland record for the third wicket in an ODI and the highest for any wicket against a Test nation.

"Stirlo did all the work against West Indies in the previous game and was disappointed to get out in the 70s. It shows the standards he sets and it was pleasing he got a century against Bangladesh. That's what you need to set up totals," added the captain who has missed only 13 ODIs since his debut in 2006 and today leads the side for the 109th time.

Although all four games this season have ended in defeat, Porterfield believes Ireland are not far away from getting back on the winning trail.

"The runs have been shared around, Kevin (O'Brien) has a couple of 50s, Stirlo has over 200 runs, it's nice everyone is starting to click. Murts (Tim Murtagh) will come back in and help the younger bowlers and if we bring 95-100 overs together against Afghanistan we will ll beat them."

Tyrone Kane is likely to be given his ODI debut, in a straight swap for the injured Josh Little and as he is a superior batsman, it should allow the selectors to give Andy McBrine his first game of the summer, probably in place of George Dockrell who Porterfield admitted after Wednesday's game "it just hasn't happened for him with the ball in the Tri-series".

Afghanistan, who have won five of the last eight ODIs against Ireland in the last year, including a 2-1 series victory at Stormont in August, arrived in Belfast last night and will train at the venue this afternoon.

After a two runs (DLS) victory over Scotland last Friday, they are on the final countdown to their second appearance at the World Cup finals, which starts in 12 days' time.

As they did, in the recent series in Dehradun they will probably use all the squad over the two games, although the Stormont pitch for tomorrow has currently more than a green tinge with Ireland hoping it will nullify the spin triumvirate of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Zadran and Mohammad Nabi who will, as ever, be their key bowlers.

At least this time, to the delight of Porterfield, it will be two new pitches, after the skipper's complaints that they had to play on used surfaces last August. The perfect response this time would be an Ireland win.

SQUADS - Ireland: W Porterfield (capt), M Adair, A Balbirnie, G Dockrell, T Kane, A McBrine, B McCarthy, J McCollum, T Murtagh, K O'Brien, B Rankin, P Stirling, L Tucker, G Wilson.

Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (capt), Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Zadran.

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