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McCarthy stars as Ireland level series

Barry McCarthy's five-wicket haul helped Ireland to a 51-run win over Afghanistan to level the series and set up a winner takes all clash in the third and final ODI in Sharjah on Sunday.

The 25 year-old Dubliner took 5 for 46 as Afghanistan were dismissed for 220 chasing 272 for victory.

McCarthy broke a second wicket stand of 51 between top scorer Javed Ahmadi (48) and Rahmat Shah (32), having earlier dismissed opener Ihsannullah (20). He also accounted for Nasir Jamal (25), the dangerous Shafiquallah first ball, and Dawlat Zadran (12) to record the joint fourth best ODI figures for the Irish.

George Dockrell (1-42) had Rahmat Shah (32) smartly stumped by Niall O'Brien - making his 200th appearance for Ireland - and Tim Murtagh (1-28) was his usual economical self, dismissing Afghan skipper Stanikzai (12).

Peter Chase - recalled along with McCarthy for the ill Boyd Rankin and Simi Singh - struck two crucial blows as the game looked to be swinging towards Afghanistan as they reached 182 for 4. The Malahide speedster first bowled Nabi (29), and five runs later had Gulbodin Naib brilliantly caught by a diving Stuart Poynter at midwicket.

When last man Mujeeb Zadran was run out, the Afghans collapse was complete, losing their last six wickets for just 38.

Earlier Paul Stirling had top scored with 82 from 96 balls, hitting 8 fours and 1 six in making his 34th half century for Ireland in all competitions - 14 of which have come in ODI's.

Stirling shared an opening stand of 115 in 131 balls with skipper William Porterfield who struck seven boundaries in his 47.

Ireland looked on course to post 300 but Stirling's dismissal sparked a mid-innings wobble as three wickets fell for no runs to leave them 160 for 5, which became 188 for 6 when Kevin O'Brien became the third lbw victim of the innings.

George Dockrell proved the hero as he produced his best innings in Irish colours enhancing his growing reputation as a genuine all-rounder. The Leinster left-armer thumped seven fours and one maximum in a brilliant unbeaten 62 from just 48 balls.

Dockrell dominated the latter stages of the Irish innings to reach his maiden ODI half-century, sharing stands of 29 with Stuart Poynter and 27 apiece with Barry McCarthy and Tim Murtagh as 83 runs from the last 81 balls took Ireland to what was to prove a match-winning total of 271.

"It was great to get the opportunity to play and it's fantastic to get the win that levels the series,” said Man-of-the-Match McCarthy afterwards. "It's obviously very pleasing to get the first five-wicket haul against a Full Member, but more importantly it was great to get the win in a brilliant all-round team performance.”

McCarthy was also quick to pay tribute to the Irish batters who bounced back from Tuesday's poor display.

"We had a tremendous platform with that opening stand between Paul Stirling and William Porterfield, and that was truly a phenomenal performance by George Dockrell which gave us momentum heading into the second innings.

"It really was a brilliant performance all round and we are all delighted to have contributed to make Niall O'Brien's 200th appearance in Irish colours a memorable one."

Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)

Barry McCarthy took 18 wickets in his first seven one-day internationals last year but, since then, he had played only eight of Ireland's last 29 games until he was recalled to face Afghanistan in Sharjah yesterday.

Despite being on four overseas tours in the last 12 months he was called into action only three times - two of them T20 internationals - but all that waiting and training was rewarded when the 25-year-old Durham professional took his maiden five-wicket haul to bowl Ireland to a series-levelling, 51 runs victory.

To bounce back with a total of 271 for nine, after being bowled out for 100 by the spin twins, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Zadran in the first game of the three-match series on Tuesday, took great willpower and not a little skill, yet when Afghanistan reached 182 for four in reply with 13 overs remaining, the momentum was with the Afghans.

But when Peter Chase - in for the sick Boyd Rankin - bowled the dangerous Mohammad Nabi with the first ball of his fourth spell, Ireland had the vital breakthrough and it got even better in Chase's next over when, after a television replay, Stuart Poynter was adjudged to have held a catch, inches off the ground to dismiss Gulbadin.

But there was still so much more to do. When Afghanistan are six down they are at their most dangerous - especially against Ireland.

After George Dockrell and Tim Murtagh had dried up the runs, conceding just three singles in successive overs, McCarthy returned and with the fifth ball of his comeback over he had the stubborn Nasir Jamal caught at extra cover and, crucially, next ball ripped through the defences of Shafiqullah, the diminutive but big-hitting No 9.

That was McCarthy's third and most economical four-for, but he wasn't finished and in his next over he trapped Dawlat Zadran plumb in front to put Ireland one wicket away from victory.

That came in the next over via a run out when Mujeeb dropped his bat just before the crease and Chase whipped off the bails to ensure that, for the third successive series between the teams, it comes down to the last game, on Sunday.

McCarthy duly received the man of the match but on the day that Niall O'Brien received a special cap presentation for his 200th appearance, there were three other heroes in the Ireland team as they proved just how valuable video footage is these days in international cricket.

Ireland had never come across 16-year-old Mujeeb before and he ripped through the top order in the first game. But yesterday, William Porterfield, who had no hesitation in batting first, and Paul Stirling put on 115 for the first wicket in 22 overs, taking 25 off Mujeeb's first five overs - one more than he had conceded in 10 overs on Tuesday - with the captain falling just short of 50 and Stirling 18 shy of that elusive century this year against the Afghans.

Mujeeb and Rashid had combined figures of four for 90 as Dockrell enjoyed himself at the end, even hitting Rashid for two fours, in his Ireland best 62 not out from 48 balls (seven fours and a six) as Ireland took 42 off the last five overs. This time it proved more than enough.