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Rankin out but Ireland still in ODI series

By Ian Callender in India

Ireland must try to win the one-day international series and maintain their unbeaten record in the Intercontinental Cup against Afghanistan without Boyd Rankin.

The big fast bowler was yesterday ruled out of the remainder of Ireland's tour in India with the back problem which has kept him out of the first six games. But Ireland proved they can beat Afghanistan in their own conditions without Rankin, their six-wicket victory in Greater Noida keeping the five-match series alive, going into the fourth game on Wednesday. Paul Stirling was denied a century for the second successive game, this time bowled for 99, but Andrew Balbirnie (85 not out, with 11 fours and a six) played his best innings as they chased down 264 for eight with nine balls to spare.

The player of the series so far, Rashid Khan finished wicketless as Ireland finally tamed the teenage leg spinner, taking 44 off his 10 overs.

Dawlat Zadran, the other ace in the home side's bowling pack, claimed the wickets of Ed Joyce and captain William Porterfield for 12 and one respectively but partnerships of 96, 59 and 86 unbeaten between Balbirnie and Gary Wilson ensured the lower order was not needed.

It was the Afghanistan lower order who rescued their side from the perils of 67 for five and 97 for six after Peter Chase - who will be Rankin's replacement - took two early wickets and Tim Murtagh, George Dockrell and Andy McBrine all chipped in as Ireland produced their best bowling effort of the tour.

Scores: Afghanistan 264-8 (50 overs, Rashid Khan 56, Gulbadin Naib 51, Shafiqullah 50 not out; T Murtagh 2-49, P Chase 2-55) Ireland 265-4 (48.3 overs, P Stirling 99, A Balbirnie 85 not out, N O'Brien 30, G Wilson 28 not out). Ireland won by 6 wickets. Afghanistan lead the five-match series 2-1.

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