When? Friday, 31st
Where? Civil Service Cricket Club, Belfast
Weather? Cloudy weather but no rain forecast with temperatures of 14-16c expected
What channel is it on? N/A
Where can I stream the match? https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/live/cricket/45249989
- Ireland won the second one day international on Wednesday by three wickets as this time they were able to restrict Afghanistan to 182/9 but they were not without some alarm bells in the successful run chase which took 43.5 overs.
- Murtagh took 4/30 from his 10 overs and was in exceptional form setting the platform for the win as he ripped out the top three batsmen for just 13 and he will be key again as this is a pitch suiting the bowlers.
- Some of Ireland’s more experienced players like captain Porterfield and the O’Briens are struggling at the minute with the bat so that puts more reliance on Stirling and Balbirnie as they are ultimately struggling to deal with the spin of the Afghans.
- Afghanistan have the psychological matter in their minds of losing to Ireland at Sharjah last year after taking a lead in that series, so they will have to overcome that and the loss on Wednesday if they want to seal this one.
- They are confident with the ball and know that they can defend or at least make it difficult and competitive if they score over 200 and they will prefer to bat first if possible and rely on their spin trio of Khan, Nagi and Ur Rahman to take Irish wickets.
- Their batting is fragile still however and they may consider a change or two here in an attempt to spark a reaction after another poor effort from the top order, but their middle order and bowlers continue to rescue them at the moment.
This series is nicely poised at 1-1 so it all comes down to this decider. The longer format has suited the Irish more than T20 where the Afghans had a clear edge with both bat and ball. Both teams have looked vulnerable with the bat as their strengths are with the ball, and the pitch has favoured the bowlers too. The Afghans seem comfortable batting first and setting a reasonable total while Ireland seem happy to chase, so that pattern may continue regardless of who wins the toss. The key will come down to which bowling attack can dominate the opposing batsmen more and the edge there has to go to Rashid Khan and co. The three spinners have taken 11 of the 17 Irish wickets to have fallen in the first two matches and if they manage to get Balbirnie early, that could spell disaster for the Irish.