Ireland left to rue end of World Cup dream
The Ireland squad head home this evening with a first Test match to look forward to, but they will not be playing in next year's World Cup in England.
It is the first time Ireland will not be involved in the finals since 2003, but they can have no excuses after falling at the final hurdle yesterday, Afghanistan deserved winners by five wickets.
The hardest part of the day for the devastated players was meeting their former coach Phil Simmons and ex-team-mate John Mooney in the traditional line-up for handshakes at the end.
For Simmons, who guided Ireland to the last two editions, it will be a ninth straight World Cup finals, while Mooney has undoubtedly improved Afghanistan in his short time as fielding coach, as gutted Ireland skipper William Porterfield admitted in the immediate aftermath.
"It's hard to take," he said. "We were ready for this game but didn't come out the right side. Simmo had many years with ourselves, Mooners had a great playing career with us, so fair play to both of them, that's professional sport.
"We didn't say anything, just shook hands although Mooners was emotional. It must have been hard for him and I know if I was sitting on the other side of the fence I would find it hard.
"They threw themselves around the field, probably saved 12-15 runs, and I'm sure John made a big impact."
Porterfield said their total of 209-7 was around 25 runs shy but he was happy with the bowlers as they took the match into the final over before the Afghans could begin their celebrations.
"I knew it was going to be a slow wicket, perhaps two or three of the first four wickets we could have made them work a bit harder but we just missed the big partnership that would have given us an extra 25 runs which would have made the difference," he added.
The opening partnership of 53 proved to be the highest but, with Paul Stirling again more circumspect than usual, it used up 15 overs. In contrast, his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Shahzad brought up his 50 in 48 balls with five fours and two sixes and, although he holed out to long-on immediately afterwards, they had 86 on the board in the 17th over.
For the second time time in three matches, however, Stirling's innings was cut short by a run out - this time with Niall O'Brien - and it is not a coincidence that the innings went downhill and led to defeat.
Ed Joyce was again missing with the injury which kept him out of the Scotland match, and this time, against a much more potent bowling attack, the class batsman in this side was missed.
Simi Singh is not yet an international No.5 - he faced 30 balls for his 15 - and Ireland still have no boundary hitters after Kevin O'Brien is out.
Niall O'Brien, in his 100th ODI, made his top score against the Afghans but this was the third time he was out in the 30s, and giving his wicket away three overs after Stirling's run-out was another vital dismissal which brought the Ireland innings almost to a standstill.
In the field, Porterfield said he was "tempted two or three times to bring on Kevin and/or Stirlo but we got a breakthrough and it passed."
The one criticism was that he gave Barry McCarthy his full quota when it was, obviously, "not his day", but Singh showed again why he is preferred to George Dockrell with an economical three wickets.
Boyd Rankin again bowled without luck, having to be satisfied with a solitary wicket as Afghanistan, under no pressure to score quickly after Shahzad's fast start paced their reply to perfection. This was their day.
W Porterfield c Shah b Nabi 20
P Stirling run out 55
A Balbirnie c Shahzad b Rashid 11
N O'Brien c Shenwari b Dawlat 36
S Singh c Shahzad b Rashid 15
K O'Brien b Rashid 41
G Wilson c Najibullah b Dawlat 11
A McBrine not out 11
B McCarthy not out 0
Extras (3lb 5w 1nb) 9
Total (7 wkts, 50 overs) 209
Did not bat: B Rankin, T Murtagh
Fall: 1-53 2-77 3-121 4-130 5-149 6-196 7-202
Bowling: Dawlat Zadran 10-0-54-2, Mujeeb Zadran 10-0-31-0, Gulbadin Naib 5-0-15-0, Mohammad Nabi 9-0-48-1, Sharafuddin Ashraf 6-1-18-0, Rashid Khan 10-0-40-3
Mohammad Shahzad c Rankin b Singh 54
Gulbadin Naib c McBrine b Rankin 45
Rahmat Shah c Wilson b Singh 12
Samiullah Shenwari c Wilson b McCarthy 27
Mohammad Nabi c McBrine b Singh 12
Ashgar Stanikazi not out 39
Najibullah Zadran not out 17
Extras (1lb 6w) 7
Total (5 wkts, 49.1 overs) 213
Did not bat: Rashid Khan, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Dawlat Zadran, Mujeeb Zadran
Fall: 1-86 2-113 3-117 4-145 5-181
Bowling: B McCarthy 9.1-0-57-1, T Murtagh 10-0-46-0, B Rankin 10-0-41-1, A McBrine 10-1-38-0, S Singh 10-2-30-3
Afghanistan won by 5 wickets