IT is 46 days since Ireland lost by nine wickets to West Indies in a Twenty20 international in St Kitts, “a long time ago in terms of cricket”, according to Andrew Balbirnie.
“The exciting thing is we have a lot of T20 cricket to make sure that doesn’t happen again and the lads put in performances every game we play,” added the Ireland captain.
The first chance to put that logic into practice is tomorrow in Greater Noida (8.30am GMT) but with a full-strength Afghanistan in the opposing dressing room, Balbirnie knows it will not be easy. He takes confidence, though that, just four days earlier, Ireland had beaten West Indies, the T20 world champions, by four runs.
“We saw two ends of the spectrum in the space of a week,” he adds. “That’s how good we can be if we do put in a performance, but playing teams like that when you have a bad day you get absolutely punished.
“But we can look back on that win and gives us confidence that when we turn up we can compete with anyone in their own back yard.
“With a World Cup at the end of the year that is a huge positive for a group that includes a lot of young players still learning their trade and to do that against a top team is very satisfying.”
Afghanistan are currently ranked three places higher than West Indies and facing Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Zadran and Mohammad Nabi on a spinning surface is the ultimate test for this squad, half of whom have come direct from the quicker pitches of Pretoria, one level down with the Ireland Wolves.
Tomorrow’s game is Ireland’s 1,000th since the first capped match in 1855 and while they have enjoyed memorable one-off triumphs in World Cups and played a Test match at Lord’s, a T20 victory against Afghanistan since Rashid Khan’s debut, is still on the do list.
Afghanistan have won the last 10 T20Is so even one victory in this three-game series would be a greater achievement than beating the 2016 World T20 champions in their own back yard.
SQUADS: Afghanistan: Ashgar Afghan (capt), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Hazratrullah Zazai, Karim Janet, Najibullah, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Naveen ul Haq, Shapoor Zadran, Mujeeb ur Rahman, (Qais Ahmad, Azmatullah Omarzai, Samiullah Shinwari, Usman Ghani.
Ireland: A Balbirnie (capt), G Delany, G Dockrell, S Doheny, S Getkate, J Little, B McCarthy, K O’Brien, B Rankin, S Singh, P Stirling, H Tector, L Tucker, C Young.