Balbirnie and Cusack take Ireland home

An unbroken partnership of 52 between Andy Balbirnie and Alex Cusack led Ireland to a tense three-wicket victory over Afghanistan in their first Tri-Series outing in Dubai.  

Despite a half-century from Ed Joyce, Ireland were struggling on 129 for seven in pursuit of 181 until eighth-wicket pair Balbirnie and Cusack, with an unbeaten 31 and 26 not out, came together to see their side home with 40 balls unused.

Left-arm spinner George Dockrell justified Will Porterfield’s decision to field with 4-35 as Afghanistan, who beat Scotland on Thursday, were dismissed for 180 in 45 overs.

Javed Ahmadi top-scored with 81 from the top of the order before number seven Najibullah Zadran ensured they had something to defend with 45 from 63 balls. 

Sussex batsman Joyce held the Ireland innings together when wickets fell around him, hitting just three fours in a 67-ball 51.

The left-hander, Kevin O’Brien and John Mooney all fell in quick succession to Ahmadi, who returned 4-37, to give Afghanistan hope.

But Balbirnie and Cusack kept their cool under pressure to get Ireland’s campaign off to a flying start. 

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