The opening duo of Stirling and Porterfield managed to negate the Afghanistan spin threat to put on a century partnership. © AFP

The opening duo of Stirling and Porterfield managed to negate the Afghanistan spin threat to put on a century partnership. © AFP

Barry McCarthy’s maiden five-wicket haul guided Ireland to a series-levelling win over Afghanistan in the second One-Day International at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday (December 7).

Coming into this game following a 138-run loss in the first ODI, Ireland put on an inspired show with the bat, scoring 271 for 9 in the allotted 50 overs. When it was their turn to defend, Ireland found the going tough with dew a major factor, but their bowling unit, led by McCarthy’s figures of 5 for 46 from nine overs, kept a tight leash on Afghanistan’s scoring. In the end, Afghanistan were bowled out for 220 in 45.2 overs, giving Ireland a 51-run win.

Opting to bat, it was evident that Ireland had done their homework, especially against Mujeeb Zadran. The 16-year-old offspinner, who had picked up four wickets on debut and led Afghanistan to a resounding win two nights back, was not as effective this time around, finishing with figures of 2 for 50 from 10 overs.

Ireland benefitted hugely from the 115-run opening partnership between William Porterfield, the skipper, and Paul Stirling. Porterfield made 47 from 64 balls and Stirling came up with a game-high 82 from 96 balls, with eight fours and a six.

Unfortunately, the platform didn’t inspire the rest of Ireland’s batting unit. The middle order faltered against Afghanistan’s discipline and seemed to have frittered away the excellent start until George Dockrell took control coming in at No. 8. Having played the legspin of Rashid Khan (2 for 40) out cautiously, Dockrell began to free his arms towards the end of the innings, smashing 62 from 48 balls with seven fours and a six.

In response, Afghanistan got off to a steady start with Javed Ahmadi (48) and Ihsanullah (20) easing the nerves without taking risks. The openers added 46 before Ihsanullah became McCarthy’s first victim.

Ahmadi and Rahmat Shah steadied the ship with a 51-run stand for the second wicket, but once that partnership came to end, courtesy Dockrell’s dismissal of Rahmat for 32, Afghanistan began to stutter visibly.

There were cameos from Nasir Jamal (25) and Mohammad Nabi (29), but with McCarthy and the rest of Ireland’s unit bowling wicket-to-wicket, Afghanistan had little chance of breaking the shackles.

McCarthy was on a hat-trick in his eighth over after getting rid of Jamal and Shafiqullah off successive deliveries, but while he couldn’t manage that, he did more than enough to ensure that the series remained alive going into the third and final ODI at the same venue on December 10.

Brief scores: Ireland 271 for 9 in 50 overs (William Porterfield 47, Paul Stirling 82, George Dockrell 62 not out; Mujeeb Zadran 2-50, Dawlat Zadran 2-65, Mohammad Nabi 2-61, Rashid Khan 2-40) beat Afghanistan 220 all out in 45.2 overs (Javed Ahmadi 48, Rahmat Shah 32, Nasir Jamal 25, Mohammad Nabi 29; Peter Chase 2-45, Barry McCarthy 5-46) by 51 runs.