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Match Report

End of the road for Ireland

Ireland's World Cup hopes were dashed by Afghanistan who won a tense battle of attrition in Harare to claim the final qualifying slot.

On a turgid pitch, the Irish reliance on seam looked out of kilter with the conditions, as the Afghan battery of spinners kept a choke-hold on the Irish batting.

Skipper William Porterfield opted to bat first in overcast conditions, and although he and Paul Stirling added 53 for the opening wicket, the rate was barely able to climb above three.

Andrew Balbirnie struggled to make an impression, and when he was caught behind by Rashid Khan for 11, Ireland had managed just 77 runs in 24 overs.

Niall O'Brien, playing his 100th ODI, looked impressive as he and Paul Stirling attempted to change the momentum of the contest.

Stirling had reached his 16th ODI half century and 36th in all formats, as he and O'Brien added an enterprising 44 in just 51 balls before disaster struck.

A mix up saw Stirling run out for 55 from 87 balls (3 fours, 1 six), although it appeared questionable on replay as Mujeeb looked to have broken the wicket beforehand.

Shortly after Niall O'Brien drove Dawlat to short cover to depart for 36 from 41 balls (4 fours, 1 six), and just as the Irish were looking to accelerate, further consolidation took place.

Simi Singh and Gary Wilson both struggled to force the pace, and it took a typically belligerent 41 from 37 deliveries by Kevin O'Brien to get Ireland over 200.

A final total of 209 for 7 was felt by the experts on the ground to be 20-30 light and that was how the innings transpired.

Mohammed Shahzad - allowed back early from a year suspension to play in the competition - got his team off to a flying start as he and Gulbadin Naib took the attack to the Irish.

They looked to be playing on a different pitch as they added 86 in 99 balls to break the back of the modest chase.

The pugnacious Shahzad thumped 54 from just 50 balls (6 fours, 2 sixes) before attempting one big hit too many and giving Simi Singh the first of his three wickets.

The YMCA all-rounder took 3 for 30 to give the battling Irish a chance as the rate crept up, but a mature chase by the Afghans belied their relative inexperience of international cricket.

Gulbadin Naib (45) and Sami Shenwari (27) batted steadily and when boundaries were needed it was captain Ashgar Stanikzai who proved the hero.

Stainkzai - initially left out of the squad after appendicitis - was a late recall and he thumped 39 from just 29 balls (4 fours, 1 six) to secure the five wicket win with five balls left.

Skipper Porterfield reflected after the defeat: "We were probably 25 runs short. Then again in games like this we can't fault anyone. We had opportunities but we lost three games. We had some key moments but could not take it."

Ireland can have no complaints after being handed an unlikely opportunity after UAE beat Zimbabwe, but they haven't helped themselves with the composition of their team at times.

They have the consolation of their first Test against Pakistan in May followed by two matches against India, but missing out on a World Cup on their doorstep is a massive blow to the game here in Ireland.

It could also be the start of a transitional period for a number of players as coach Graham Ford may now look to build a new team with one eye on 2023.