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Awful Ireland slump to series loss

Ireland produced one of their most insipid displays of recent times, slumping to an embarrassing eight-wicket loss against Afghanistan in the series decider at Stormont.

The meekness of the display has led to calls for changes throughout the set-up, coming on the back of what has been a bitterly disappointing period for the senior side.

The reluctance to introduce fresh talent, coupled with the absence of a meaningful A team programme over many years has led to the current situation, and this display may well be seen as a watershed for the sport.

There was little to cheer for Irish fans in this match, as after batting first, they were skittled for just 124.

Five fell lbw on another sluggish pitch, which skipper William Porterfield described as "like playing in an away series."

Rashid Khan picked up 3 for 18 on his way to a Man-of-the-Series award, while there were two apiece for Gulbadin Naib, Aftab Alam and Mohammed Nabi.

Gulbadin and Naib had reduced Ireland to 39 for 4, among their wickets Paul Stirling playing his 100th ODI, and Andy Balbirnie his 50th.

They were signs of a fight-back as Kevin O'Brien and Simi Singh added 32, but that was quickly extinguished by the tourists.

The modest target proved little trouble, despite the early loss of Shahzad.

Ihsanullah hit an unbeaten 57 as the Irish were put out of their misery with 26.1 overs remaining.

Irish skipper William Porterfield said after the loss:

"We knew, looking at the first two games, that we needed to get a good total on the board - it was never going to be a high-scoring affair. Losing those three [early] wickets in the space of a couple of runs put us on the back foot. We knew from there we'd have to play well to get back into it and Kevin [O'Brien] and Simi [Singh] showed a glimpse of that with a good partnership.

"We knew early on was the best time to bat on a surface like that, and that it would slow up as the game went on, but we just didn't get enough runs to provide a challenge.

"Any series between these two sides are generally close - it's typically our batters against their spinners, and their batters against our seamers - and whoever wins that battle comes out on top in that game. That's been the same for the last four series, and will be the case moving forward against Afghanistan, especially looking towards February and March when we're going away to play them."

Ireland and Afghanistan will face each other next in February/March 2019, which will include a series of matches including five ODIs, three T20Is and an inaugural Test match between the two sides.

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Stormont, Belfast