Ed Joyce hammered a career-best 148-ball 160* in an innings that featured 19 fours and three sixes to propel Ireland to a series-levelling win against Afghanistan in Belfast. Joyce’s knock, the second-best score by an Ireland batsman in ODIs and third-highest by a player from an Associate team, helped the side post 265 for 5, a total they defended by 12 runs. The five-match series was tied 2-2.
Ireland, who were batting first for the first time in the series, lost captain William Porterfield in the fifth over when he edged to second slip for 8. Sean Terry, playing his third ODI, was dismissed in the 10th over when Yamin Ahmadzai completed a stunning one-handed grab off his own bowling, diving low to his right.
Gary Wilson, promoted to No. 4, and Joyce then got stuck into rebuilding the innings. Joyce got to his fifty in the 24th over, off 70 balls. The pair combined for a 134-run stand to set up a strong platform for Ireland in the end overs. In between, Wilson survived a nasty collision with Mohammad Shahzad in the 32nd over, when he tried to return to his crease.
Wilson holed out to square leg off the first ball of the 41st over, for 58 off 92 balls. At that stage, Joyce was on 93. After Kevin O’Brien fell in the following over, Joyce took charge and smashed 67 of the 87 that Ireland scored in the last 10 overs. He finished with 60.37% of Ireland’s runs, the highest percentage in a completed ODI innings for an Associate side.
After the game, Joyce, who was named Man of the Series, said he was spurred on by his controversial dismissal in the previous match. “I probably was extra motivated; I was actually pretty tired this morning going into the game, had a niggle, but what happened in the last game obviously gave a bit of extra motivation.”
Afghanistan’s chase was dented early by the Ireland seamers as they were quickly reduced to 27 for 3. Rahmat Shah (30), captain Asghar Stanikzai (32) and Mohammad Nabi (25) got starts in the middle order but failed to convert as Ireland chipped away.
Afghanistan were tottering at 119 for 6 in the 33rd over. Najibullah Zadran and legspinner Rashid Khan, however, put on a 93-run seventh-wicket stand but the soaring asking rate proved insurmountable. Three wickets in three balls – one at the end of the 46th over and two at the start of the next – effectively killed the chase.
Dawlat Zadran smashed five boundaries in his unbeaten 15-ball 31 but it wasn’t enough. O’Brien finished with 3 for 57, while medium-pacers Peter Chase and Barry McCarthy picked up two wickets each.