Ireland just weren't good enough, says Porterfield
All you can say about this Ireland team at the moment is that they are consistently inconsistent.
Just two days after skittling Afghanistan inside 37 overs, the visitors became only the second team to score 300 at Stormont and levelled the two-match series with barely a whimper from their hosts.
Ireland were bowled out for 179 in the 42nd over and it is now almost 15 months since they last won back-to-back games in any format. Paul Stirling scored his usual 50 against Afghanistan and his fourth half century in succession, but immediately after reaching his personal record-breaking landmark he holed out to deep mid-wicket.
His dismissal summed up the Ireland reply, with the batsmen continually falling to the sucker punch of a short ball and guiding it unerringly into the hands of the grateful Afghanistan fielders.
Six of his team-mates followed suit. Andrew Balbirnie edged one to the keeper and Andy McBrine, ball watching, was run out, as if to prove there was another way of getting out.
It actually started to go wrong for Ireland from the moment William Porterfield, surprisingly, asked the Afghans to bat. He admitted afterwards it was a 50-50 decision but, although Mark Adair, back with the new ball, took a wicket with his seventh delivery, a partnership of 150 between Mohammad Shahzad and Rahmat Shah followed.
What wasn't surprising was Afghanistan's approach, 48 hours after their 72-run defeat in the first match. They had to wait seven overs to hit their first boundary on Sunday, but by the same stage yesterday they had hit six and the Ireland bowlers could not respond.
By the time McBrine came on as third change in the 16th over, Afghanistan were 82-1 and it was never going to be as easy to contain two set batsmen as it was first up on Sunday with a new ball. He still made the breakthrough, a double one actually, but it was in his ninth over and the World Cup-bound squad were on course to pass England's high score at Stormont of 301, in Ireland's first ODI back in 2006.
For a while it looked as if they wouldn't get there, with Kevin O'Brien and Stirling conceding only 24 runs in five and a half overs - the extra three balls from O'Brien required because Barry McCarthy, who came in for George Dockrell, had to limp off with a knee injury.
But despite Stirling taking the big wicket of former captain Asghar Afghan, Porterfield reverted to type and brought back his front line bowlers for the last 10 overs; Afghanistan scored 93, and that included a wicket-maiden from Boyd Rankin, with Tim Murtagh - 32 from his last two overs - and Adair - 33 from his last three - bearing the brunt.
McCarthy was preferred to Tyrone Kane who must wait until the Zimbabwe series in July, at least, for his ODI debut and James McCollum must hope that he gets another chance in that series after a fifth successive failure at the top of the order.
Gary Wilson finished second top scorer, but his 34 came off 53 balls with just two fours, and by that stage the game and Ireland's hopes of an elusive series win were long gone.
Gulbadin Naib, thrust into the captaincy last month after the Afghanistan board changed the leader in all three formats, took the last three wickets for career-best figures of 6-43 and only the UAE's Zahoor Khan has better figures against Ireland in their 150 ODIs.
Attempting to explain the 198 runs difference in the results over the two games, Porterfield said: "We were out-disciplined in all three aspects and they did the basics for longer.
"We knew it was going to be a decent pitch and we thought there might have been something in it early on but they put partnerships together, outclassed us with the bat and bowled in good areas for longer."
Mohammad Shahzad c O'Brien b McBrine 101
Noor Ali c Rankin b Adair 5
Rahmat Shah c O'Brien b McBrine 62
Asghar Afghan c McBrine b Stirling 14
Hashmatullah Shahidi c Murtagh b Adair 47
Gulbadin Naib c Stirling b Rankin 3
Najibullah not out 60
Rashid Khan c sub b Adair 0
Extras (5lb 7w 1nb) 13
Total (7 wkts, 50 overs) 305
Did not bat: Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Fall: 1-25 2-175 3-176 4-204 5-212 6-298 7-305
Bowling: T Murtagh 10-0-74-0, M Adair 10-1-71-3, B McCarthy 4.3-0-34-0, B Rankin 10-1-54-1, A McBrine 10-1-43-2, K O'Brien 2.3-0-11-0, P Stirling 3-0-13-1.
P Stirling c Rashid b Gulbadin 50
J McCollum c Gulbadin b Dawlat 3
A Balbirnie c Shahzad b Gulbadin 20
W Porterfield c Rahmat b Aftab 19
K O'Brien c Asghar b Gulbadin 12
G Wilson c Rashid b Gulbadin 34
A McBrine run out 1
M Adair c Najibullah b Rahmat 8
B McCarthy lbw b Gulbadin 18
T Murtagh c Asghar b Gulbadin 0
B Rankin not out 1
Extras (4lb 9w) 13
Total (41.2 overs) 179
Fall: 1-29 2-77 3-84 4-102 5-117 6-119 7-138 8-163 9-163
Bowling: Dawlat Zadran 7-0-35-1, Mujeeb Ur Rahman 5-1-27-0, Aftab Alam 7-0-27-1, Gulbadin Naib 9.2-0-43-6, Rashid Khan 9-0-31-0, Rahmat Shah 4-0-12-1
Afghanistan won by 126 runs.