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Cricket: Cusack on rampage as Ireland blow Afghans away

Who needs the county professionals? Ireland ended their losing run against Afghanistan with five of their first choice side missing, winning the World League clash at VOC Rotterdam by 39 runs.

It keeps Trent Johnston’s side on course to retain their title and victory today over Scotland will put them in pole position.

Alex Cusack was yesterday’s bowling hero. He took the last wicket in his ninth over to finish with career best international figures of five for 20 but it was his Clontarf teammate, Andrew Poynter who won the man-of-the-match award for his Ireland-best innings of 77 on Saturday.

The game had to be continued yesterday when rain prevented Afghanistan starting their innings on schedule, but it suited Ireland that they could come back and play the full second innings.

The Afghans know only one way to play and when Ireland’s bowlers dried up the boundaries, the wickets started to fall. There wasn’t one 50 partnership in the innings — Ireland had two in theirs, of 237 for nine — and five times Johnston made bowling changes and was rewarded with a wicket.

Cusack proved the golden arm, having Noor Ali and the dangerous Mohammad Shahzad caught in his first over, and followed up with the wickets of Ashgar Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari at the start of his second and third spells.

Although Andrew White and George Dockrell also picked up wickets in their first overs, when the three spinners — Paul Stirling’s comeback over cost 15 — started leaking runs the absence of the in-form Albert van der Merwe looked as if it would be crucial.

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But every time Johnston turned to pace, he was not let down, Kevin O’Brien having Mohammad Nabi caught at long-on at the start of the second spell and the captain finally got one in the final column in what proved to be his last over to end a ninth wicket stand of 35.

It was the catching which won and lost this match, however. Afghanistan dropped five simple ones, Ireland only one and having achieved his first goal of the week Johnston is now hoping to get another chance of beating the Afghans in Saturday‘s final.

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