Record-breaking Joyce and O'Brien help Ireland stop the rot
Ed Joyce scored a beautifully-paced 105 not out in Belfast yesterday to deliver a much-needed six-wicket victory over Afghanistan that draws Ireland level at 1-1 with two games to play of the five-match one-day international series.
Kevin O'Brien again bowled with great control to take 3-28 and Barry McCarthy also grabbed three wickets as the visitors were dismissed for 236 but Ireland lost quick wickets and were wobbling before Joyce assumed control and guided his side home with 15 balls to spare. It was only Ireland's second win in their last 10 completed ODIs.
The 37-year-old opener's eighth century for Ireland - his fourth in ODIs, including one for England in Sydney - had strong echoes of his second on the same Stormont ground against the UAE in 2005 when he was unbeaten chasing down 230 after witnessing a similar early collapse.
On that occasion Ireland slipped to 23-4 before Joyce added a century partnership with Trent Johnston; yesterday the home side were 29-3, with William Porterfield, debutant Sean Terry and Stuart Poynter all dismissed for single figures, when Joyce was joined by O'Brien.
Not only did the pair add a century partnership, their stand of 144 was the highest for any wicket by Ireland in a home ODI and by the time O'Brien was caught in the covers for 75, from 85 balls with 11 fours, the game was won.
Paul Stirling's 39 not out from 37 balls in his new 'finisher' role only served to underline Ireland's superiority on the day.
"I'm really chuffed to get the runs," said Joyce, whose 135-ball innings contained eight fours and a six. "We played their spinners a lot better than Tuesday. We would have bowled first if we'd won the toss."
Meanwhile, the draw for the semi-finals of the National Cup sees holders Rush drawn away to Belfast side Woodvale, while Laois will host Newbuildings, from the north west. The games will be played on August 13.