Young guns blow Ireland away
David Townsend (Irish Independent)
Mujeeb Zadran, the first male one-day international cricketer born this century, blew Ireland away with a stunning spell of spin bowling in Sharjah to give Afghanistan victory by 138 runs and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three one-day international series.
Ireland thought they had done well to restrict the Afghans to 238-9 in 50 overs but optimism quickly turned to puzzlement and then despair as the tall 16-year-old removed Paul Stirling, Andy Balbirnie, Gary Wilson and Kevin O'Brien with his first seven-over spell on debut.
Skipper William Porterfield battled to a top score of 35 but with Mujeeb finishing with man-of-the-match-winning figures of 4-24, and fellow teenage terror Rashid Khan chipping in with three wickets, Ireland were bowled out for 100 in the 32nd over.
"Fair play to Mujeeb, it was a great debut," said Porterfield. "We hadn't seen anything of him going into the game but we have 10 overs to study now on tape and work out the best way to go about scoring off him in the next two games."
There were positives for Porterfield, despite the margin of defeat. Kevin O'Brien became the first Ireland bowler to 100 ODI wickets while Boyd Rankin took four wickets for 44 runs, looking fluent and showing how much he is missed when injured and Tim Murtagh bowled a near perfect set of 10 overs..
Probing at the start, Murtagh returned to break a threatening third-wicket stand as Ireland took a grip in the middle overs, and showed variety at the death.
It was just a shame his final delivery was despatched into a nearby road but figures of 3-28 were excellent all the same.
That mighty blow was the first of barrage of fours and sixes from the Afghan tail that turned a likely 220 into a far more imposing total, with 50 runs coming off the final five overs, 40 of them off three plus Murtagh's last ball.
With Mujeeb waiting in the wings, it hardly mattered.