Tour review

Afghanistan vs Ireland in India in 2018-19

Ian Callender

Twenty20 internationals (3): Afghanistan 3, Ireland 0 One-day internationals (5): Afghanistan 2, Ireland 2 Test match (1): Afghanistan 1, Ireland 0

Ireland's first Test tour was always going to be tough: they were facing Afghanistan, who had one of the best spin attacks in world cricket, on turning tracks. A share of the 50-over series - one of the five games fell victim to the weather - was for the Irish the highlight of the four-week trip. For the Afghans, though, there was a predictable 3-0 sweep in the T20s, when their opponents' lack of big hitters was exposed.

After the ODIs came the Test which, played on a used surface, brought Afghanistan their first victory. Three pitches were prepared at Dehradun but early on match referee Javagal Srinath ruled the proposed Test wicket out of bounds, so all nine games were played on just two strips. That prompted Ireland to leave Boyd Rankin, their attack leader, out of the Test despite having struck every 25 deliveries in the white-ball games; he still finished as their leading wicket-taker, with 13.

In the Test, Ireland fielded four slow bowlers - five, if Paul Stirling was included. George Dockrell's left-arm spin improved as the trip wore on, and he claimed 11 victims in all. Not that he could match the success of his Afghan counterparts. They dictated many of the nine games, and the fortunes of leg-spinner Rashid Khan often determined the result. In the Twenty20s, he took 11 of the 19 Irish wickets to fall to bowlers, while in the Test he had figures of seven for 102. In the ODIs, he was limited to five wickets, if at a healthy economy-rate of 3.9.

Rashid proved he was more than a world-class bowler when he made his fourth international fifty - his third against Ireland - to help swing the fourth ODI. The captain, Asghar Afghan, was the most consistent batsman, hitting 226 runs in the 50-over games, and a half-century in the Test.

With the World Cup looming, Afghanistan rang the changes, using 19 players in the one-dayers (and 30 across the three formats). Ireland looked enviously at their strength in depth. One player to make a splash was the 20-year-old Hazratullah Zazai, who ransacked the Irish attack en route to an unbeaten 162, the joint third-highest score in all Twenty20 cricket. The Afghan total was an outright record 278 for three.

Andrew Balbirnie and Stirling were the only Irishmen to top 300 runs at Dehradun, though Dockrell's batting offered encouragement: he contributed 215. The old guard, on whom Ireland had long depended, had mixed fortunes. Kevin O'Brien's bat was more productive than William Porterfield's - 274 runs rather than 51 - while Tim Murtagh (five wickets at 52) did not rival Rankin's returns.

Still, there were signs of the next generation. All-rounder Shane Getkate played throughout the T20 series, while batsman James McCollum and slow left-armer James Cameron-Dow won debuts during the ODIs. They were the first new caps awarded by Graham Ford since he was appointed coach in December 2017. All three were well into their twenties.

It was a shame DRS proved too expensive. Though Porterfield insisted it was the same for both sides, Ireland suffered more: Stirling was given lbw in the Test despite an inside edge.

© John Wisden & Co