Ireland suffer heavy defeat against Afghanistan
Afghanistan moved a step closer to the opportunity of securing Test cricket with a comprehensive victory over Ireland by an innings and 172 runs in their Intercontinental Cup at Greater Noida with a day to spare.
Centuries from captain Ashgar Stanikzai and wicket-keeper Afsar Zazai had helped Afghanistan post a formidable first-innings total of 537 for eight declared, before leg-spinner Rashid Khan ripped through the Ireland batsmen with five wickets for 99 to leave them with 170 for seven.
John Anderson tried to offer some resistance during Thursday's opening sessions, his unbeaten 61 helping the total on beyond lunch to 261 from 91.4 overs, but Ireland were nevertheless forced to follow on.
This time it was off-break spinner Mohammad Nabi who did the damage, eventually taking an impressive six wickets for just 40 runs off 20 overs, while Rashid Khan returned three for 44 as Afghanistan claimed the full 20 points on offer to overtake Ireland at the top of the Intercontinental Cup standings.
Ireland and Afghanistan both have two matches left to play, with the team which leads the final rankings then set to play the lowest-ranked Test side - which is currently Zimbabwe - in 2018 from which the winner would earn Test status.
Anderson, who resumed on 10, was supported by Andrew McBrine (18) and Peter Chase (16), while Tim Murtagh was trapped leg-before by Zahir Khan for two.
Any hopes of a dramatic comeback in the second innings, however, failed to materialise as Afghanistan again set about the Ireland openers.
Captain William Porterfield, who was out for just four on Wednesday, could only manage eight before he sent an outside edge off a fuller delivery from Dawlat Zadran to Rahmat Shah at gully.
Rashid Khan had Andy Balbirnie caught behind for 13 to leave Ireland on 26 for two.
Nabi soon sent back Anderson for a 15-ball duck and then bowled Ed Joyce for 11 in the same over, which put Afghanistan firmly in the driving seat.
Niall O'Brien and Gary Wilson were Ireland's top scorers with just 15, both falling to Rashid Khan, with the tail offering little resistance as Nabi remained on the offensive and Ireland were skittled out for just 104.