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Match Report

KEVIN O'BRIEN'S superb all-round display guided Ireland to a series-levelling three wickets win against Afghanistan in Greater Noida.

The Railway Union man followed up a four-wicket haul with a magnificent unbeaten 72 to get the Irish over the line in a tense contest which ebbed and flowed throughout.

His effort was all the more remarkable given that he batted almost the entire innings on virtually one leg, after aggravating the hamstring injury which forced him to miss the last two ODI's.

O'Brien retired hurt on 9, but resumed his innings with his team in trouble at 130 for 6, still needing 91 from 18 overs on a turning track.

The Dubliner smashed 8 fours and 2 sixes in a powerful innings, finding a willing ally in Gary Wilson.

The ever-consistent Wilson made 41 as he shared in a 66-run stand with O'Brien to completely change the course of the contest. However, he perished with 25 still needed, pulling a Rashid long hop to deep midwicket, and the game was once again in the balance.

O'Brien and George Dockrell held their nerve to seal the win which sets up the series decider on Friday.

Earlier, Afghanistan had been reduced to 11 for 3 and 83 for 7 by a superb opening spell by O'Brien (4-26), and wickets for spinners Jacob Mulder (3-57) and Andy McBrine (2-39).

However, once again the Afghanistan lower order rallied with Shafiqullah strking 8 fours in a run-a-ball 42, and fine innings of 41 from both Mohammed Nabi and Dawlat Zadran saw the last three wickets add 137.

A total of 220 was always going to prove challenging on a used pitch which had variable bounce and offered great assistance to the spinners.

Paul Stirling (28) and Ed Joyce (24) settled the Irish nerves initially with an opening stand of 48, but Nabi (4-30) bowled superbly to put Afghanistan on top before O'Brien's brilliant counter-attack.

The turning point was the 35th over, when Ireland plundered 18 runs from their previous tormentor, Rashid Khan. From that point on the momentum was with them as they closed out the win with 19 balls to spare.

The victory however comes at a cost with O'Brien facing a race against time to be fit for Friday's decider.

"It's the same hamstring injury unfortunately, which doesn't look too good," said a limping O'Brien at the post-match presentation. "We'll reassess it in the next 12-24 hours to see where we go."

With Ireland suffering a few collapses earlier in the tour, O'Brien stressed the need for the top order to take responsibility, to ensure there would be experience there in the crucial final overs.

"As a batting unit, we spoke of how we need one from the top six to be there going into the last few overs and that's how it worked out.

"Afghanistan are a very good bowling team, and every match against them on this tour has been close and hard fought. We knew they weren't going to lie down when they scored just 220.

"We realized we were going to have to bat well and our mentality was just the same, as we looked to score freely without taking too many risks."