Rashid Khan's miserly spell and Rahmat Shah's spectacular century took Afghanistan to a comfortable seven-wicket victory and 3-2 series win at Greater Noida. Opting to bat first, Ireland were helped by Paul Stirling, the Man of the Series, and Ed Joyce to a fine start.
Once Rashid dismissed Joyce, the momentum was disrupted and Ireland just about managed their way to 229. The leggie bagged four as Afghanistan had a fairly easy target to chase down, or so it seemed.
Stuart Thompson and Tim Murtagh put on an exhibition whilst opening the bowling and Ireland seemed to have clawed their way back into the game before Rahmat Shah's second ODI hundred and Shamiullah Shenwari's handy half-century took Afghanistan to their target.
Brief Scores: Ireland 229/10 in 48.1 overs (Stirling 51, Joyce 42, Rashid Khan 4/29) lost to Afghanistan 231/3 in 48.4 overs (Rahmat Shah 108, Shenwari 62)
Here are the talking points from the final game at Noida.
#5 Stirling makes fourth fifty of series
Paul Stirling has been in sizzling form for the Irish ever since setting foot in India. The swashbuckling opener and all-rounder smashed his fourth half-century of the five-match ODI series in the decider at Noida.
Dropped early in his innings by Rashid at first slip off Dawlat Zadran, Stirling unleashed his typically aggressive hoicks and cuts thereafter. He and Ed Joyce put on 69 for the opening wicket before Rashid dismissed the latter.
Stirling remained unperturbed and smacked Mohammad Nabi for a four and a six off the very next over. Once Shenwari was introduced into the attack, the right-hander deposited him over mid-wicket and raced to a half-century. However, he was undone by Gulbadin Naib in the next over for 51.
#4 Gulbadin Naib's fine spell
The medium pacer and all-rounder, Gulbadin Naib, had a fine day with the ball in hand despite being thumped by Stirling for two fours in his second over. He was hit for yet another boundary in his next and was taken out of the attack.
Brought back after the dismissal of Joyce, Naib tightened his lines and bowled stump to stump. He varied his pace and bowled some well-disguised off-cutters.
Frustrated by not being able to score, Stirling finally tried to guide a ball to third man and was cleaned up. The medium pacer had given Afghanistan a big breakthrough in his lovely second spell.
#3 Rashid Khan wreaks havoc
The 18-year-old leg-spinner has made headlines for all the right reasons ever since bagging an IPL contract with Sunrisers Hyderabad. He has sizzled on this Indian tour and Ireland have found him too hot to handle.
While they seemed to have got a hang of Rashid in the last two games with Andy Balbirnie and Kevin O'Brien dominating the spinner, Rashid was back to his best in the decider. He picked up the initial breakthrough by cleaning up Ed Joyce's stumps after an enterprising opening stand.
But it was his next spell that left Ireland reeling. Rashid went on to devour Balbirnie, keeper, Niall O'Brien, and Stuart Thompson to leave Ireland at 193/7. Despite getting off to a decent start, Ireland finished with a below par score.
#2 Stuart Thompson and Tim Murtagh's perfect opening spell
Ireland did not have Peter Chase for the decider and opened the attack with Thompson and Murtagh. The duo kept Shahzad and debutant, Najeeb Tarakai in check. Thompson justified the move to open with him when he had the dangerous Shahzad caught at backward point.
Murtagh then removed the debutant with a well-disguised off-cutter that was slogged to the deep fieldsman. The duo kept the scoring rate under check and ensured Afghanistan’s middle-order were put under pressure.
Stanikzai and Rahmat were not allowed any free runs either as the new pair struggled against the lines bowled by the Ireland seamers. The duo finished their opening spells with Afghanistan at 28/2.
#1 Rahmat makes light work of chase
Afghanistan needed one of their middle-order batsmen to step up after Shahzad had departed early. Although the target was considerably low, it required good application to survive against some smart bowling.
Shah was slow to start with but steadied the ship after his side was reduced to 25/2. A 73 run stand with Stanikzai laid the perfect platform before Shenwari gave him good company to seal the chase and the series.
The 24-year-old batsman played each delivery on its merit and despite not playing any risky shot, maintained a healthy strike rate of above 80. Once the platform was set Shah wasted little time in finishing off the chase for Afghanistan.