A sensational 99 from Paul Stirling coupled with Andrew Balbirnie's fleet-footed batting against Rashid Khan helped Ireland to their first victory over Afghanistan in this series in the third ODI at Greater Noida.
Earlier, Peter Chase and Tim Murtagh choked the run flow early in Afghanistan's innings courtesy some movement off the surface and swing in the air. Rashid Khan and Gulbadin Naib rescued them with half-centuries before Shafiqullah Shafiq slammed a half-century in 28 balls to guide Afghanistan to 264.
Stirling once again sizzled for Ireland but was dismissed on 99. The difference between the two sides today, though, was Balbirnie who hit an unbeaten 85, not letting Rashid set into a rhythm. He took Ireland home in the penultimate over of the game.
Brief Scores: Afghanistan 264/8 in 50 overs (Rashid Khan 56, Gulbadin Naib 51, Murtagh 2/49) lost to Ireland 265/4 in 48.3 overs (Stirling 99, Balbirnie 85)
Here are the talking points from the third ODI of the five-match series from Greater Noida.
#5 Peter Chase makes amends with excellent opening spell
In the second ODI, Chase was smashed for three consecutive sixes by Stanikzai as he appeared too predictable with his back of the length slower balls. He was taken to the cleaners in a 10-over spell that leaked 92 runs.
Confidence damaged and reputation affected, Chase returned to the same ground to deliver a cracking opening spell. The ball was moving around and he pitched it up to generate natural outswing that resulted in the wicket of Noor Ali, who edged to the cover fielder.
The bigger scalp arrived soon after as Mohammad Shahzad, the architect of many Afghanistan wins, found Chase's outswing too hot to handle, edging to first slip. Afghanistan were reduced to 20/2 and Chase found redemption.
#4 Dockrell's miserly spell
George Dockrell was one of the better bowlers on show for the Irish in the second ODI. His flight, guile and drift ensured that Afghanistan did not completely get away and post a score in excess of 350.
Once again, Dockrell was right on the money at Noida. After Stanikzai swept a flat delivery for four, the left-armer came back to dismiss him in the very next ball. The spinner delivered a rather slow delivery that Stanikzai tried to go hard at only to lose his stumps.
He kept Shenwari and Nabi silent in the next few overs and further choked the Afghans after their already poor start. His first six overs went for a mere 21 runs and accounted for the crucial wicket of last game's centurion.
#3 Rashid Khan just can't put a foot wrong
The 18-year-old Afghanistan leg-spinner, Rashid Khan, is on a high these days. After his big IPL auction grab, Rashid impressed Indian fans with his bowling in this series against Ireland which included career-best figures in the last ODI.
In the third ODI, the young spinner showed another side of his game by smashing a crucial half-century to lift Afghanistan from 97/6 to a fighting total. Rashid was smart and thoughtful with the bat, as he milked the spinners while latching on to anything loose.
The Irish bowlers, who looked like they had a proper plan in place until then, suddenly ran out of ideas against his onslaught. Fortunately, lady luck smiled on the Irish as Rashid was run-out for 56.
#2 Paul Stirling's back-to-back 90s
Just how unlucky is Paul Stirling? In the second ODI, he did all that was asked of him and more by taking a six-wicket haul and making 95. An umpiring error saw him miss out on a well-deserved hundred and a rare record of taking a five-wicket haul and a hundred in the same match.
Once again, in the third ODI at the same venue, Stirling got Ireland off to a flier, chasing 265 for victory. The opener survived the early period where the ball moved around and watched two of his partners perish to Dawlat Zadran. Once he got a hang of the wicket, Stirling started unleashing his powerful strokes.
He was tactical against the spinners, using the sweep shot to good effect to race past the 90s yet again. But such was his luck that on 99 he misread a slider from Mohammad Nabi and was cleaned up.
#1 Andrew Balbirnie guides Ireland to victory
Andrew Balbirnie notched up his fourth ODI half-century to steady the Ireland middle-order after the fall of Paul Stirling. Balbirnie lost Stirling after the duo had put on 59 for the fourth wicket. But he was determined to alter the trend of middle-order batsmen not clicking for the Irish on this tour.
The biggest factor in Afghanistan's victories in this series was Rashid Khan, their leggie. Balbirnie, though, led Ireland with the bat and showed his teammates how to negotiate the 18-year-old by constantly rotating strike against him.
The right-handed batsman chipped Rashid over the infield, swept him numerous times and even slog-swept his wrong'un. For once, the leggie did not have any answers as Balbirnie took Ireland home while remaining unbeaten on 85 off 71 balls.