Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
Ireland crashed to a 13 runs defeat in their opening match of the World Twenty20 qualifiers in Dubai as Afghanistan made it three wins out of four in games between the teams.
The fielding let Ireland down as they dropped up to six catches after William Porterfield had won the toss and apart from a breezy 35 by the captain from just 23 balls, most of the other batsmen gave their wickets away without making a significant contribution.
As expected, Ireland went into the match with the team that beat Canada on Sunday, Peter Connell getting the nod over Andrew White who, despite 154 appearances and 12 T20 games was named as 12th man.
White though could have no complaints about Connell's performance. The North Down opening bowler produced his best spell of the tour and was so unlucky not to get anything in the wickets column.
Indeed, he should have struck with the first ball of the match when Noor Ali turned it straight into the hands of George Dockrell but it went straight in and out. And it didn't get any better for Connell and Ireland when Noor Ali, on 11, was missed at first slip, a straightforward chance to Trent Johnston.
By then Ireland had made the breakthrough and Johnston, as he has done so often on this trip claimed the first scalp, finding the inside edge of Karim Sadiq's bat and the opener played on.
A fine running catch by John Mooney at deep mid-wicket gave Johnston his second wicket but it was to be another seven overs before Afghanistan lost their third wicket. This followed yet another dropped catch, by Porterfield over his head at mid-off, but Mooney swooped from long-on and his direct hit ran out the striker going for a second.
Paul Stirling then made a good diving catch round the corner to leave the Afghans 69 for four at the start of the 14th over and Ireland, despite the slip-ups in the field - Andrew Botha also let one go through his hands at deep mid-wicket for a six - were more than satisfied with the position.
The last seven overs belonged to Afghanistan, however, and their improvement coincided with the entrance of Mohammad Nabi. He took a liking to young Dockrell whose third over cost 23 runs including three huge sixes.
At least Kevin O'Brien, in his 100th game for Ireland, Alex Cusack and Botha conceded only three boundaries in the last five overs, a four off the last ball setting Ireland a target of exactly seven runs an over.
Although Niall O'Brien skyed one to mid-on at the end of the third over, the runs were already flowing at the other end with Porterfield in full flow. By the end of the six powerplay overs, Ireland had 49 on the board and the captain had helped himself to successive sixes off left armer Shapoor and then consecutive fours at the start of his third over.
Ireland's momentum was halted however by the loss of two wickets in three balls as Porterfield missed a sweep and was bowled and then Botha went the same way. Two overs later Kevin O'Brien was also back in the pavilion with another mistimed pull and then, crucially, Stirling, who had scored 21 off 22 balls mistimed one straight to mid-on and Ireland were 78 for five in the 12th over.
It was not to get any better as Cusack was run out after backing up too far, trying to run a free hit, Gary Wilson chose to cut a ball which was too close to him and was caught behind and the last three wickets wickets in the space of four balls as the innings folded without a whimper.
The only bright spot for Ireland was that the United States defeated Scotland by six wickets in today other match in the group. Ireland play the Americans in Abu Dhabi tomorrow.