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Cricket news - Homesick Ireland aim to turn things around in the ODIs

With no world cup to prepare for, Ireland can play with maximum freedom and minimal pressure

After a one-sided T20I series, the sides return to ODI cricket, as Afghanistan aim to make some final tweaks ahead of the World Cup. Less than a week into the tour to India, the Irish, presumably, feel a tingling in their bellies. A feeling of homesickness. They have had a nightmare of a week, with comprehensive defeats at the hands of proxy hosts Afghanistan.

One of the major problems lay in the Irish batting, which crumbled just as badly against spin in the three T20Is as it did in December 2017 in the UAE. Moreover, their bowling, usually their strong point, was woeful in the T20Is as the Afghan batsmen cashed in and piled on the runs, breaking the world record for the highest T20 score in the process, and the highest individual score in a T20I.

In the larger scheme of things, however, Ireland are certainly more in their comfort zone in less brief formats. Moreover, they aren't in contention for the 2019 World Cup, having failed to impress in the World Cup qualifiers. That, however, may be the perfect platform for Ireland to play with maximum freedom and minimal pressure, and perhaps get some much-needed form back. The hard-length quicks and the attritional spinners are much more suited to the soak-the-pressure paradigm of the game than the trickery and deceit of T20s.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, will be brimming with confidence after a clinical performance in the T20I series. Rashid Khan has been impressive, as usual, picking up a 5-wicket haul in the last T20I, which included an unprecedented epiphany wherein he picked up four wickets in as many deliveries - only matched by a Lasith Malinga performance over a decade ago in the 2007 World Cup. The pragmatic Mohammad Nabi has provided the much-needed balance to the side, with his limited-but-intelligent bowling and his explosive batting. Hazratullah Zazai has looked explosive (an understatement) at the top of the order, with a couple of quick cameos to go with that brutal 62-ball 162.

More importantly, as a unit, Afghanistan have looked comfortable, as exhibited in the first match of the series, when Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran pulled through in a pressure chase of 136, after Afghanistan were 50-5 at one stage. They will certainly be looking at their combinations going into the ODI series, and try to test themselves against stiffer targets with the bat. Moreover, with the return of Mohammad Shahzad, Afghanistan now have a more trustworthy, and more importantly, an in-form opening pair going into the World Cup.

When: February 28, 2019, 13:00 IST

Where: Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Dehradun

What to expect: Fortunately, there's an encouraging 0% chance of rain in Dehradun on Thursday, as the heavens clear out all their stocks tonight. The lack of overcast conditions are likely to affect the bowling choices, but if the T20Is are anything to go by, the surface is likely to be dry for a majority of the game; it follows that the spinners are likely to play a major role.

Teams:

Afghanistan: Given that Afghanistan played their last ODI in the Asia Cup last year, almost five months ago. Mohammad Shahzad, who did not feature in the T20I series, is likely to make a return to the top of the order and open with Hazratullah Zazai, and there are likely to be a few other changes in the line-up too, based on current form. There are simply too many possible combinations to ponder.

Squad: Asghar Afghan (c), Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Javed Ahmadi, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Ali Khil, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Rashid Khan, Karim Janat, Gulbadin Naib, Aftab Alam, Dawlat Zadran, Zahir Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Shapoor Zadran, Sayed Shirzad, Fareed Malik

Ireland: Ireland haven't played an ODI in over five months either, so the probable XIs are difficult to predict. However, we know for sure that William Porterfield returns as captain after Paul Stirling's stint in the T20I leg of the tour.

Squad: William Porterfield (c), Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, James Cameron-Dow, George Dockrell, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Tim Murtagh, James McCollum, Kevin O Brien, Stuart Poynter, Boyd Rankin, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Lorcan Tucker

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