Afghanistan vs Ireland, First T20I : Preview and Playing XI
Afghanistan will kick-start their tour of Ireland with a three-match T20 international series. The opening game will be played on Monday, 20 August at the Bready Cricket Club in Bready, Northern Ireland. Both teams have played 10 T20I matches against each other in the past with seven of those being won by the Afghans.
The previous occasion these two countries met in the shortest format was in March 2017 at Greater Noida. Afghanistan, after being asked to bat first, racked up a mammoth 233/8 and then bowled Ireland out for 205 to win the match by 28 runs.
Afghanistan will go into this match as the more confident side due to their impressive show in this format. The Afghans have won 12 of their last 15 matches. While In their most recent T20I series, Afghanistan routed Bangladesh 3-0 at Dehradun, India in June 2018.
Batting: Mohammad Shahzad is the team's leading run-getter in T20Is with 1906 runs which includes a century and 12 fifties. While Samiullah Shenwari topped the runs charts in the last T20I series against Bangladesh with 118 runs in three matches. Both of them along with skipper Asghar Stanikzai forms decent batting unit.
All Rounder: Mohammad Nabi is a vital cog in this side due to his all-round skills. He is not only among the leading run-getters for Afghanistan in this format but also the leading wicket-taker with 65 wickets.
Bowling: The visitors will bank on Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman to deliver the goods with the ball. Rashid is currently the world no. 1 bowler in T20 cricket and has 57 wickets to his name in 33 matches. While Mujeeb showed his bowling skills during IPL and both are likely to cause problems for the Irish batsmen on this tour.
Expected Playing XI: Asghar Stanikzai (C), Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadran, Shafiqullah Shafiq, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Aftab Alam, Mohammad Shahzad and Usman Ghani.
On the flip side, Irish men have been in a poor run of form in the game's shortest format, winning just three of their last thirteen matches. They are currently lying at the bottom of T20I rankings at the 17th spot behind Hong Kong and Oman. While they also don't have a good record to show at this venue; losing all three T20I's here and will begin the series as clear underdogs. In their previous assignment, Ireland were thrashed 0-2 against India at Dublin, in June 2018.
Batting: Paul Stirling is the leading run-getter in the 20-overs format with 1152 runs and the onus will be on him to take the team off to a brisk start. Similarly, James Shannon, who scored a half century for the side in the first T20I against India is expected to continue his momentum against the Blue Tigers. Both these men along with experienced William Porterfield, who has 1038 T20I runs will be key against the Afghans.
All Rounder: Kevin O'Brien has scored the most runs for Ireland at this ground in this format and he is the danger man in the middle order. The allrounder who is Ireland's highest wicket-taker in the T20I format with 58 wickets will also be a big threat with the ball.
Bowling: Pace bowler Peter Chase was impressive against India with five wickets in two matches and him together with Boyd Rankin will be the hosts' best bets for picking up the early breakthroughs.
Expected Playing XI: Gary Wilson (C), Kevin O'Brien, Simi Singh, George Dockrell, Boyd Rankin, Peter Chase, Joshua Little/Andy McBrine, Paul Stirling, James Shannon, William Porterfield and Andrew Balbirnie.