STIRLING HEROICS IN VAIN AS IRELAND LOSE
Paul Stirling's brilliant all-round display wasn't enough to lead Ireland to victory in the second ODI against Afghanistan in Delhi.
Stirling - playing in his 200th game - took Irish ODI record bowling figures of 6 for 55, but Afghanistan still racked up their highest ODI total of 338.
He then top scored with a hard-hit 95 as Ireland once again put themselves in a strong position to chase down an imposing total.
Stirling struck nine fours and cleared the ropes five times, sharing stands of 113 with Ed Joyce (55) and 60 with skipper William Porterfield (45) as Ireland looked well placed at 173 for 1.
However, his dismissal - harshly adjudged lbw off Rashid Khan - proved the turning point in the game. Rashid proceeded to claim a six-wicket haul as the Irish fell 34 runs short.
Stuart Thompson struck seven fours in a breezy 37, dominating a sixth wicket stand of 50 with Gary Wilson, and with 64 needed from the last eight overs, Ireland were still in the game.
However Rashid (6-43) and Dawlat Zadran (3-52) kept the pressure on, and as the required rate increased to double figures, scoreboard pressure took its toll on the Irish late order - five wickets falling for just 26 runs.
Earlier, Afghanistan captain Ashgar Stanikzai's maiden ODI hundred had propelled his side to 338, his 101 coming from 90 deliveries contained six fours and six sixes.
Mohammed Shahzad had given his team their typically strong start as the Irish seamers struggled - the stocky opener striking 12 boundaries in a quickfire 63 from just 43 balls.
Rahmat Shah (68) and Shafiqullah (35) were also among the runs in a strong batting display.
Stirling's six wickets haul was well supported by George Dockrell's two wickets for 45 runs, but a total of 338 was always going to be a tough challenge.
"We're massively disappointed," said Stirling as he collected his Man-of-the-Match award. "We came here to win and unfortunately we couldn't do that. Winning is what it's all about and we couldn't get across the line."
Stirling paid tribute to Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who he said was proving to be the difference in the two sides.
"We were in a strong position but all credit to Rashid Khan who has bowled brilliantly again today. We'll have to get our thinking hats on and try and counteract him and play better against him in the next game."
The teams meet again in the third ODI at the same venue on Sunday (4am GMT).
Afghanistan v Ireland, 3rd ODI, Greater Noida
Afghanistan 338 (50 overs; A Stanikzai 101, R Shah 68, M Shahzad 63, S Shafiqullah 35, P Stirling 6-55, G Dockrell 2-45)
Ireland 304 (47.3 overs; P Stirling 95, E Joyce 55, W Porterfield 45, S Thompson 37, R Khan 6-43, D Zadran 3-52)
Afghanistan beat Ireland by 34 runs and lead 2-0 in the series