Afghanistan and Ireland are set to lock horns in the first game of the three-match series on March 6. Both the sides will be aiming to plug in their loopholes with the T20 World Cup nearing its initiation.
After levelling the previous T20I series against West Indies, the Afghan side will be eager to oust Ireland, considering the venue of the T20I matches is going to be Afghanistan’s turf– Greater Noida Sports Complex. In their previous series against the Caribbean side, Afghanistan retaliated from suffering a defeat in the first T20I and pounced back to clinch the series 2-1.
Rahmatullah Gurbaz, who single-handedly steered Afghanistan to a total of 156 runs in the third ODI, played a pivotal role in his side’s series triumph. Stealing the dazzle amid the impressive bowling force of Afghanistan, Karim Janat scalped seven wickets in the series and earned himself Player of the Series Award.
Touted as one of the dark horses of the T20 World Cup, Afghanistan will be itching to bolster and test their squad one final time before the mega-event flags off in October. Asghar Afghan and Co. will be enduring their last T20I series before the initiation of their T20 World Cup campaign. Furthermore, it will be a great opportunity for Afghan players to sweat it out and prepare themselves for the extravaganza of IPL 2020 which is set to kick off later this month.
Ireland have also endured the same opposition– West Indies— in their previous T20I expedition where they were able to level the series 1-1. The Andrew Balbirnie-led side put up a phenomenal batting performance and amassed 208 runs on the board in the first T20I. Despite failing to curb West Indies’ run-flow in the second innings, Ireland edged the Caribbean side by 4 runs on the back of Joshua Little’s three-wicket haul.
The Irish side suffered a thudding 3-0 defeat in the last T20I series played between both the teams. It will undoubtedly be an uphill task for the Emerald Isle to topple a robust Afghanistan squad.
Afghanistan will be bolstered by the likes of Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan in their ranks. Both the players have the potential to deliver in both the departments and change the course of the match single-handedly. Rashid Khan is currently ranked first in the T20I bowlers’ rankings and has an impressive record of scalping 84 wickets in 45 T20 Internationals.
Mohammad Nabi also is ranked the No.1 all-rounder in T20I rankings. The 35-year-old has amassed 1316 runs in 75 T20Is along with plucking 69 wickets. Nabi and Rashid are anticipated to play a pivotal role in toppling a relatively weaker Irish side. Karim Janat, who has been in sublime form lately, will look to dazzle.
Probable XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Karim Janat, Asghar Afghan (C), Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib/Naveen ul Haq, Samiullah Shenwari, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
In the absence of Gary Wilson, Ireland will be bolstered by the likes of Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling. In the first T20I against West Indies, Stirling flaunted his expertise by smashing a brilliant 95-run knock. Kevin O’Brien also has a plethora of experience under his belt and in 93 T20Is, he has amassed 1592 runs including a ton and three half-centuries. Despite amassing a considerable amount of runs in their previous series, it was a hapless bowling force which let down Ireland’s hopes of clinching the series.
Probable XI: Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien, Andrew Balbirnie (C), Stephen Thomas Doheny (WK), Gareth Delany, Harry Tector, Simi Singh, Shane Getkate, George Dockrell, Boyd Rankin, Craig Young.
Focus will be on
Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan)
The No.1 T20I all-rounder Mohammad Nabi will be aiming to deliver in both the departments and steer his side to a thumping series triumph. The 35-year-old has the experience of playing across numerous T20 leagues along with donning the Afghanistan jersey in 75 T20Is and 124 ODIs. Nabi will be crucial along with Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman in dismantling Ireland’s batting force. Along with scoring 1316 runs in his T20 career, Nabi has 69 scalps under his belt including best figures of 4/10.
Paul Stirling (Ireland)
Stirling has emerged as one of the vital cogs of Ireland’s batting force over the years. After making his T20I debut for Ireland in 2009, the 29-year-old has gathered 2052 runs in 75 T20Is at an impressive average of 30. The right-hander also has 14 half-centuries under his belt. Furthermore, Stirling’s forte isn’t limited to his willow. Stirling, who has 27 scalps in T20 Internationals, has the potential to serve his side with the ball too.
Head to Head
Played – 16 | Afghanistan won – 12 | Ireland won – 3 | No result – 1
17- Ireland’s Paul Stirling has amassed 17 half-centuries in a T20I career spanning over 75 matches.
1316- Mohammad Nabi has gathered 1316 runs in 75 T20Is including four half-centuries.
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Match timings – 2:00 pm IST, 2:00 pm local
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