No way back from nightmare start
Ireland failed to recover from a nightmare start and duly went one down in the five-match one-day international series against Afghanistan in Dehradun.
A seventh wicket stand of 76 between Paul Stirling and George Dockrell gave Ireland some respectability as they reached 161, before being bowled out in the last over, but it wasn't nearly enough for the bowlers to seriously trouble a strong batting line-up.
Mohammad Nabi, who yesterday signed to play for Kent in this year's T20 Blast, and Rashid Khan were not even needed as Afghanistan eased to a five wickets victory in the 43rd over.
Stirling, as he has done so often against this opposition, was the batting star, following up innings of 101, 99 and 95 in recent series with 89 here, but this was a completely different innings.
On the slow, low wicket – which is set to be a feature of the series and almost certainly the Test match - he faced 150 balls in his longest innings in an ODI, surpassing the 134 balls he played in Toronto in 2010 when he scored 177, still Ireland's highest individual one-day score.
His first 50 took 105 balls, and included just five boundaries, but at least he was still there. After 30 overs, Ireland were on a miserable 69-5 and two balls later, they had lost their sixth wicket and their ODI low score of 77 was still in danger.
The damage had been done early with Mujeeb Zadran dismissing Andrew Balbirnie and debutant James McCollum leg before with successive balls in the eighth over, captain William Porterfield having chopped on to his stumps in the mystery spinner's first over.
But it was the lack of intent by the batsmen which was most worrying and will have to rectified, starting in tomorrow's second game, if Ireland are to have any chance of being competitive in the series. There were only three scoring shots in the first seven overs and one of those, a six by Stirling, was from a free hit.
Were the other balls all so accurate that they could not have picked up singles and rotated the strike? Porterfield admitted in the post-match Press conference that they should have been 30-1 after the (10-over) powerplay. Instead, they were 15-3 and probably should have been four down because somehow Stirling got the benefit of the doubt from another lbw appeal which looked the plumbest of the lot!
Still, after Stirling and Kevin O'Brien had hit a boundary each in successive overs, it needed a misfield to give Ireland their only boundary from overs 14-35 as the Afghans turned the screw and the batsmen offered little resistance.
Dockrell, whose batting has improved so markedly in the last year, changed all that and having played himself in, along with Stirling they finally took control. The last 54 runs of their partnership came off 45 balls and although Dockrell was Rashid's only victim of the day, the last three wickets could add only 16 runs, Stirling the last man out, with four balls of the innings unused.
Ireland's only chance of a victory was to take early wickets but Hazratullah Zazai (he of the 162 in last week's T20 international) and the recalled Mohammad Shahzad played against all natural instincts and took 12.3 overs to put on 43 before Barry McCarthy, in for Peter Chase, had him caught at long-on by an athletic O'Brien.
Simi Singh was the pick of the bowlers but his lone wicket, just like Rankin's quick double and Dockrell's when too late to matter, were all in vain.