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Balbirnie, Cusack Hold Their Nerve

Alex Cusack
Alex Cusack helped Ireland beat Afghanistan in Dubai
©International Cricket Council

Ireland 181-7 (Joyce 51) beat
Afghanistan 180 by three wickets
Associates ODI tri-series, Dubai

Andrew Balbirnie and Alex Cusack put on an unbroken 52-run stand for the eighth wicket to guide Ireland to a three-wicket win over Afghanistan in the Associates tri-series in Dubai.

After George Dockrell had taken four for 35 to bowl Afghanistan out for 180, Ireland struggled after Ed Joyce had made 51 and were 129 for seven when Balbirnie and Cusack came together.

Balbirnie made 31 not out in 50 balls and Cusack 26 in 37 to steer Ireland home in 43.2 overs.

Javed Ahmadi stood firm for Afghanistan as his 81 in 89 balls, along with Najibullah Zadran's 45, but there was little else to come from the batsmen.

John Mooney struck twice early to remove Usman Ghani and Afsar Zazai for one apiece while Dockrell dismissed Nasir Jamal (8) and Mohammad Nabi (2) to reduce Afghanistan to 81 for five.

Ahmadi and Najibullah helped revive the innings and runs from Mirwais Ashraf (12) and Dawlat Zadran (11 not out) saw Afghanistan reach 180 before Dockrell finished the innings off in consecutive deliveries with the wickets of Hamid Hasan (0) and Aftab Alam (0).

In reply, Will Porterfield (7), Paul Stirling (0) and Gary Wilson (9) fell cheaply before Joyce, Niall O'Brien (22) and Kevin O'Brien (30) looked to be putting Ireland on course for the win.

Ahmadi backed up his innings with a haul of four for 37, removing the O'Brien brothers and Mooney to put Afghanistan in a strong position.

However, with almost 20 overs to score the 52 runs they needed, Balbirnie and Cusack coolly denied Afghanistan, hitting the winning runs in the 44th over.

Ireland play Scotland on Monday in the third game of the tournament.

© Cricket World 2015