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Match Report
Ian Callender

Ireland's winning run in the World Cup Qualifying tournament in South Africa came to a shuddering halt on the spin-friendly pitch in Krugersdorp. After easing past the "might' of Scotland and Canada in the group stages they were humbled by Afghanistan, the team who just eight months ago were in World League Five.

Three winning tournaments later they find themselves among the big boys with the dream of ODI status, for a top six finish. This monumental result will do them no harm at all.

To be fair to Ireland, if they deserve an excuse, on any other ground being used in this tournament they would almost certainly have made it six wins out of six but, still without Kyle McCallan, because of a cracked rib, they had only 20 overs - 22 if you include the two overs Eoin Morgan sent down - of spin in a match in which Afghanistan bowled 33.3.

However, it was the Afghan's opening bowler, Hamid Hassan, who ended up with the man of the match award, taking four wickets in a stunning finale as Ireland collapsed from 186 for five to 196 all out, 23 short of their target.

There was a hint of inevitability about the collapse. Before this match no-one below Ireland's top seven had batted so when Andrew White was bowled for 56, bringing to an end a heroic sixth wicket stand of 113, the tail were exposed and found wanting. Kevin O'Brien's dismissal proved fatal. The big Railway Union all-rounder had just brought up his third 50 of the tournament, including three huge sixes, when he played back to the first ball of the 47th over and was bowled. Ireland were just 25 runs from the winning post and, undoubtedly, if O'Brien had stayed an Ireland victory was a certainty.

But then Regan West got what appeared to be a harsh decision, given out caught behind when his bat hit the ground, not the ball, Peter Connell followed three balls later and Mohammad Nabi, the Afghans' first choice spinner, inevitably, finished the match, breaching the defences of John Mooney.

The Ireland innings also got off to the worse possible start, doing themselves no favours. William Porterfield had already been dropped before he played on in the third over and Gary Wilson went the same way six balls later, after scoring his first run in three innings. Eoin Morgan's poor shot, missing a attempted cut, left Ireland at 40 for three and when Niall O'Brien and Alex Cusack were dismissed in the space of three overs, Ireland faced their biggest battle of the tournament.

Ireland went into the game with an unchanged team - Mooney deservedly holding on to his place after impressing against Namibia, allowing Trent Johnston to rest his dodgy hamstring. "John Boy' followed Peter Connell into the wickets column early but, crucially, West could not add to them in his 10 overs and White, who took four in his last game here, had to be satisfied with two.

The Afghans helped themselves to 44 off their batting power play as Ireland failed to take more than seven wickets. It was the Afghans day but Ireland, still joint top in the Super Eight table, remain on course for a place in the World Cup finals.

They need two wins from games against UAE on Monday, the Netherlands on Wednesday, and Kenya on Friday.

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