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Skipper Balbirnie calls on Irish to come out swinging



Andrew Balbirnie

Andrew Balbirnie

Getty Images for ECB

Andrew Balbirnie

Andrew Balbirnie has told his Ireland side to go out and express themselves in the three-match World Cup Super League series against Afghanistan, which gets under way in Abu Dhabi tomorrow morning (5.30am GMT).

With 30 points up for grabs on the pathway to the finals in India in 2023, Ireland will look to build on their 'bonus' 10 points from their memorable victory over world champions England in Southampton last August, but with mystery spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Zadran in the opposition line-up, it will be a huge ask to win the series.

But captain Balbirnie is confident, especially after their emphatic 112-run victory over the UAE which squared the ODI series on Monday.

"Afghanistan have been our foes for a number of years, we have played them a lot. We know each other pretty well, they beat us in the final of the last World Cup qualifying competition which was a tough loss to take, but this is a whole new ball game and we have the confidence of a win yesterday on the ground we will be playing them on," he said.

"But I just want this team to go out and express themselves because if you get into a hole against this attack there is no hiding place. If we come out fighting, I'm confident we can get a result."

Balbirnie also confirmed that Kevin O'Brien will continue to open the batting in the longer white-ball format after his success with Paul Stirling in T20 internationals, and Simi Singh, after emulating Stirling on Monday - the only other player to score a 50 and take five wickets in the same ODI - will retain his place in what is expected to be the same line-up.

Only Curtis Campher, named player of the series in the UAE games, has not faced Afghanistan's stars before and it is how the middle order of Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker plus Campher, Singh and Gareth Delany cope against Rashid and Mujeeb which could decide the destiny of the vital World Cup points.

"You want to get as many points as you can and we will be disappointed if we don't get 30," said Balbirnie. "But we are going to have to do it for three games, they come thick and fast, and any points we get will be vital in our quest to qualify."

• Rishabh Pant labelled his series-winning innings "one of the biggest moments" of his life after India inflicted a first defeat on Australia at the Gabba since 1988.

The 23-year-old hit an unbeaten 89 on day five to complete a remarkable recovery which saw the tourists win the four-match Test series 2-1 despite losing the opener after being dismissed for 36 in Adelaide.

Set a record victory target of 328 to win in Brisbane, India won by three wickets with three overs to spare to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in a dramatic finale to a pulsating series.

"This is one of the biggest moments of my life now," Pant said.

"It's been a dream series. The team management always back me and tell me, 'You are a match-winner', and I keep thinking every day that I want to win matches for India and I did it today."

Belfast Telegraph