Adair and Rankin to the fore as Ireland get the better of Afghanistan
Mark Adair took a career-best 4-19 and Boyd Rankin chipped in with three wickets as a superb bowling display in Belfast enabled Ireland to defend a modest total of 210 and beat Afghanistan by 72 runs in the first of a two-match one-day international series.
Adair, who has impressed since making his debut against England, took two wickets in his first spell and, ably supported by Tim Murtagh, Andy McBrine, Rankin and Kevin O'Brien, he returned to wrap things up with two wickets in three balls as Afghanistan were bowled out for 138.
Murtagh had set the tone for the bowlers with the first two wickets on a Stormont pitch that suited him perfectly. Off-spinner McBrine bustled through 10 overs for 17, O'Brien snared the vital wicket of Mohammad Nabi and Rankin found some of his old fire after a shaky start.
Only when Nabi was clearing the boundary as he helped add 47 in five overs mid-innings did the World Cup qualifiers look likely to chase down their target.
The recent ODI tally between the old adversaries now stands at 12-all.
"That was a satisfying performance, and taking 10 wickets was very pleasing," said skipper William Porterfield. "You rarely run through a side and bowl them out and there was always the thought they were going to find a partnership. I wanted Boyd to be as aggressive as possible."
Paul Stirling and Porterfield again provided the meat in the Ireland innings, following their record 174-run partnership against Bangladesh last week with a determined stand of 99 on the tricky surface after the loss of two early wickets.
After a poor run of scores, Porterfield recorded his second successive half-century and Stirling top-scored with 71 from 94 balls, including the only two sixes of the innings, but when the third-wicket pair departed within eight deliveries of each other, the momentum stalled.
O'Brien contributed 32 after surviving the softest of chances but the Boys in Green fell 30 short of the 240 that had looked possible as they were bowled out in the 49th over.
"We have played some very good cricket in patches this month, but not put it all together," Porterfield added. "Here also at half-time we thought we were a bit short, to be honest."
Meanwhile, former Ireland coach Phil Simmons has announced that he will stand down from his role with Afghanistan after this summer's World Cup.