O'Brien heroics not enough for Ireland
Kevin O'Brien took four wickets and followed up by clearing the ropes three times in Belfast yesterday but his all-round efforts were not enough to prevent Ireland slipping to a 39-run defeat as Afghanistan took a 1-0 lead after two matches of a five-game series.
Ireland, missing the unavailable Boyd Rankin, fought hard in the field to restrict Afghanistan to 250 all out as momentum shifted back and forth between two well-matched sides, and then seemed on course for victory as new opening pair William Porterfield and Ed Joyce added 71.
Porterfield was bowled for 25 but it was the dismissal of Joyce for 62 in the 27th over that saw the chase lose its way - despite O'Brien's lusty 35 from 27 balls - and from 114-1, Ireland subsided to 211 all out to record a eighth defeat in their last nine completed one-day internationals.
The performance was not without encouragement for Ireland coach John Bracewell, who omitted out-of-touch regular Gary Wilson and drop opener Paul Stirling to six in the order, only to see the Belfast blaster hole out in the deep for 16.
Malahide seamer Peter Chase, who missed the whole of 2015 with injury, took 1-42 from 10 overs, despite three no-balls and four wides, while Barry McCarthy built on his solid start against Sri Lanka with 4-59.
After an abandonment on Sunday and yesterday's loss, Ireland must now win the remaining three games of the series, all at Stormont, if they are to leapfrog Afghanistan in the ODI rankings. It looks a tall order without Rankin and the injured Niall O'Brien.