IRELAND will play their 1,000th match in Greater Noida today and look to end a run of T20 defeats by Afghanistan that seems to stretch back almost as far, having not beaten their closest rivals in the shortest format since Trent Johnston retired in 2013.
A three-match series, at Afghanistan’s ‘home’ ground south of Delhi, gives new skipper Andy Balbirnie the chance to do something his predecessors could not achieve in 10 attempts, overcome a team containing the world’s best T20 bowler Rashid Khan.
“There's no escaping the fact that Afghanistan have had our number in T20 Internationals,” Balbirnie said. “We've certainly got a point to prove but we've got new guys in the side who have been impressing from the off, so it will be interesting to see how we go in this series.”
Ireland’s focus this year is on the T20 World Cup with takes place in Australia in the autumn, so good performances against another of the qualifiers with give newcomers like Harry Tector, Gareth Delany and even Stephen Doheny the chance to lay down markers.
Pembroke wicketkeeper Lorcan Tucker will be behind the stumps with veteran gloveman and former captain Gary Wilson missing the series with a chest infection.
“All the T20s we play leading into the World Cup are important,” Balbirnie said. “We've got so many opportunities to play top teams in this format, like Afghanistan, so going to Australia later in the year we should be as prepared as we have ever been.”
The idea of flying to India to play Afghanistan in three frenetic games in five days, which might see over 1,000 runs scored, would not have been imaginable when The Gentlemen of Ireland beat The Gentlemen of England by 107 runs in Phoenix Park, during the Crimean War.
After that first match in Phoenix Park in 1855, it took Ireland another 143 years to play their 500th international - a three-wicket loss to Denmark - but since 1998 the Boys in Green have doubled that number, with Kevin O’Brien playing in 365 of them, including the 1,000th.