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Cricket news - Afghanistan's turn to begin WC preparations with Ireland detour

Asghar Afghan was replaced as captain by Gulbadin Naib which was met with widespread criticism even from the top players from the squad.

Ireland have entertained West Indies and Bangladesh over the last one week in order to give them ample practice ahead of the World Cup. Even though this was a rare opportunity for Ireland to come up against top-quality opposition, it must have hurt them to host two teams who are actually playing the mega event while they sit back and watch when the tournament kicks off. But at least West Indies and Bangladesh are much bigger than Ireland on the cricketing landscape. The same cannot be said about Afghanistan, who will be now making a pit-stop in Ireland for two ODIs before heading to England. This is going to sting even more.

Ireland had played in the World Cup much before Afghanistan did. Their pathway to Test cricket was very similar with both teams gaining status at the same time. Yet, it's the Asian side that managed to book their place in the 10-team tournament. Having already been blown away by both Bangladesh and West Indies, the last thing Ireland would want is to be rolled over by Afghanistan. These two do have a modern-day rivalry and face each other often.

Ireland will be more than determined to prove a point and ensure Afghanistan don't come here just to acclimatise to these conditions and get some confidence going into the World Cup. Their batting did come good in their last two games posting high scores but they have traditionally struggled against Afghanistan's spinners. If they can manage to overcome that barrier, they will indeed fancy their chances. For Afghanistan, their batting isn't really their strong suit and with the Irish bowlers getting carted around continuously in the recent games, it certainly provides them the perfect opportunity to get going especially with the conditions expected to be batting-friendly in England.

There has been a change in captaincy too recently with Asghar Afghan being replaced by Gulbadin Naib which was met with widespread criticism even from the top players from the squad. It will be interesting to see if that has an effect. The visitors will also have to take a call on playing Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi who have had a heavy workload in the Indian Premier League recently.

What: Ireland vs Afghanistan, 1st ODI, May 19, 10:45 AM local time

Where: Civil Service Cricket Club, Belfast

What to expect: The teams will be welcomed by chilly weather and there is rain forecast in the afternoon which still shouldn't really threaten to wash out the entire game.

Squads:

Ireland: William Porterfield (C), Mark Adair, Andrew Balbirnie, George Dockrell, Tyrone Kane, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O'Brien, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Lorcan Tucker, Gary Wilson.

Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (C), Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, CRashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan and Mujeeb ur Rahman.

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