48.3 overs Afghanistan 250 for 7 (Zazai 67, Rahmat 54, Shahidi 52, Dockrell 3-52, McBrine 2-43) v Ireland
A persistent drizzle held up play for nearly three hours before the second ODI in Dehradun was abandoned without the completion of an innings. The covers came off twice during the break, only to be back on within minutes as the rain barely allowed for the umpires’ scheduled inspections.
Earlier, left-arm spinner George Dockrell, and offspinner Andy McBrine took five wickets between them as Ireland put a timely end to two substantial Afghanistan partnerships and limited them to 250 for 7 in 48.3 overs before the stoppage.
Afghanistan had an opening stand of 90, and a third-wicket stand of 87, but lost two quick wickets after both of them to lose steam and be forced into more conservative batting towards the end. On both occasions, it was the combination of Dockrell and McBrine that brought the breakthroughs. As the pressure mounted, allrounder Simi Singh sneaked in 1 for 33 in his eight overs.
For the third consecutive game on the tour, Afghanistan had a strong opening start. Not for the first time, it was dominated entirely by Hazratullah Zazai. The left-hander opened the scoring on the day by tonking Tim Murtagh over midwicket and out of the stadium off the second ball of the game after Asghar Afghan had elected to bat. Ireland had McBrine share the new ball with Murtagh, a gamble on his offbreak to upset Zazai’s rhythm. While it worked to some extent – Zazai had several come off the top, bottom, and leading edges against all bowlers – runs were still fairly easy to pick up for the batsman. His sixes – five of them – were exclusively on the leg side and aimed over long-on, the difference just being the distance he got on them.
Debutant left-arm spinner, 28-year-old James Cameron-Dow, was given a taste of this off consecutive deliveries in his first over in international cricket. Having faced only pace and offbreaks until the 12th over, Zazai sized up the newcomer, drilling him over long-on to bring up fifty, and following it up with a bigger slog next ball.
His adventures only lasted three overs from there. McBrine, brought back into the attack, slowed down a length ball that spun away from off stump and Zazai’s attempted slog sweep came off the top edge. For the first time, it was in touching distance of a fielder and Balbirnie grabbed it running back from first slip.
In the next over, another bowling change brought a wicket. Dockrell lobbed one up to Javed Ahmadi, Afghanistan’s other opener on the day, and his first attempt at forcing the attack against spin ended up with him lobbing a simple catch to mid-on. It was emblematic of Ahmadi’s struggle all afternoon; his 53-ball 22 played into Ireland’s hands even during Zazai’s onslaught. When they’d both been dismissed off consecutive overs, Afghanistan were 92 for 2 in the 17th over: a reasonable run-rate given Zazai had got his 67 off just 43 deliveries.
The screws could have been turned further, but Balbirnie dropped Rahmat Shah at gully off Boyd Rankin in the 25th over, and Hashmatullah Shahidi‘s top-edged sweep was grassed at deep square by Murtagh in the 29th. What should have been McBrine’s second wicket at the time became the starting point of Afghanistan’s acceleration.
Shah was by far the more fluid of the two batsmen, promptly on his toes when the seamers dropped it short, and unafraid to use his feet to alter the spinners’ lengths. But after making 54 off 66 balls, he fell playing the wrong line to Dockrell, and made way for Afghan, who proceeded to hit the spinner for two fours – one to wide long-on, and one wide of long-off. With just under 15 overs left when he came in, the Afghanistan captain’s intentions were clear, but couldn’t be matched with more than those two boundaries as he chopped McBrine on next over.
Shahidi, who announced himself at the Asia Cup last year with three consecutive fifties, was still around. He completed his fourth fifty in six ODI innings, looking reasonably comfortable against spin, but completely at sea against Rankin’s short of a length test. Having previously been rapped on the thumb trying to fend one, Shahidi ended up slicing a pull out to deep square against the fast bowler. Where he’d struck at at least 85 against spin, he got only 4 off 17 against Rankin. And his wicket – shortly after Nabi’s 20-ball 24 ended with a miscue to long-on – was the centre of a collapse that took Afghanistan from 226 for 4 to 234 for 7. Rashid Khan’s fledgling cameo was cut short as soon as he swatted Murtagh over midwicket, with the clouds that had persisted throughout the day delivering on their unwanted promise.