Afghanistan continued their winning ways in white-ball cricket as they defeated Ireland by 29 runs in the first one-day international in Belfast.
The hosts, beaten 2-0 in the recent T20I series, were chasing a target of 228 to win but were bowled out for 198.
Having slipped to 93-4, Ireland were relying on Andy Balbirnie, but when he fell for a gritty 55 their hopes evaporated.
Star leg-spinner Rashid Khan picked up two wickets (2-41) while all-rounder Mohammad Nabi also snared two (2-42) as they secured victory.
Earlier, Afghanistan had to dig deep to post a total of 227-9.
Gulbadin Naib top-scored with 64 and shared a fourth-wicket partnership of 77 with Hashmatullah Shahidi, who hit 54. Tim Murtagh took 4-31 and Boyd Rankin finished with 3-44.
Afghanistan cricket added yet another feather to their cap on Monday with the launch of their very own T20 league.
The Afghanistan Premier League (APL) will take place from October 5-23 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium with five franchises fighting for glory over 23 matches.
Helping put the rising Asian side’s league on the world map will be star names such as Shahid Afridi, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Shoaib Malik among a host of renowned Afghan names like Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Zadran.
Around 400 names have been finalised for the draft that will take place next week. The teams have been split on provincial lines in Afghanistan; they are Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Paktia and Balkh.
vRock Mobile, an Indian company, has won the rights to the Paktia franchise while another Indian entity – Legendary Man Entertainment – will own the Balkh team.
Three other teams are up for grabs with the organisers suggesting two heavyweight T20 franchise owners are close to buying franchise rights in APL.
Franchisees will have to operate with a salary budget of $555,000 up to $700,000. Teams have an option of a minimum 17 players ($555,000) and can go up to 20 players ($700,000).
Players will be picked through a draft with cricketers divided into categories like Icon players, Diamond players, Gold players and Emerging players.
According to Shafiqullah Stanikzai – CEO of Afghanistan Cricket Board – the following which Afghan cricket has not only back home but also in the UAE and the Indian subcontinent should make the tournament a raging success.
“The APL will be among the top three leagues in the world in coming two to three years. The viewership that we have across the globe and especially in the Indian market is big. After their own team, the most watched team in India is Afghanistan,” Stanikzai told Sport360.
“Asian subcontinent is the biggest market and timing of Afghanistan Premier League will suit that. The style of cricket that Afghanistan has brought to global cricket is our biggest advantage.”
"The APL logo represents afghan cricketing style of playing with passion and aggression."— Afghan Cricket Board (@ACBofficials) August 27, 2018
ACB CEO @ShafiqStanikzai addressing the @APLT20official Launch and Logo Unveiling Event in Dubai. pic.twitter.com/Nhv3elGo67
Ashish Sethi, CEO Snixer Sports – investment partners of APL – said the league has immense potential and it will be an opportunity for the world to see the talent Afghanistan cricket has.
“You will get to see a lot of raw talent. If you see IPL and Big Bash, they have a few (Afghan) players you are aware of. Here you will see players you haven’t even heard of. We look forward to have many more Rashids and Nabis,” Sethi told Sport360.
Sethi is confident that once the league is up and running, turning a profit will only be a matter of time.
“We expect to reach break-even by the third year and fourth year onwards we should make profits. We have controlled expenses. We have kept the player purse very comfortable. We don’t want franchises to bleed.”
Stanikzai sees the league as an opportunity to not only provide more financial opportunities to Afghan cricketers but also put a larger pool on the radar of franchises from across the planet.
“Financially, our players will be good. Though ACB runs a system where we have 200 full-time professional cricketers, this league will help Afghanistan cricket enormously. Secondly, you can only give opportunities to 11 players in your national side. This league will give exposure to the talent we have in Afghanistan.
“I am quite sure in next year or so, we will have 10 to 20 players in the IPL. Afghanistan will be a hot pick for franchise cricket.”
The sides go head to head in three 50-over contests at Stormont starting on Monday when the hosts will be looking to avenge a 2-0 defeat in the T20 leg of the tour.
Rashid was a predictably central performer in the sprint format, living up to his world No1 status with combined figures of seven for 52.
The teenage leg-spinner could hold the key once more and will have 10 overs rather than four to weave his spells on the Irish – and Porterfield acknowledges how crucial their response will be.
“He’s a very good bowler, he’s right up there at the top of both formats for a reason,” he said.
“The more you play against someone the more you get to deal (with them), you’ve got to evolve your game and play him well, just as he keeps looking to evolve his.
Rashid Khan has taken 3 wickets in 5 consecutive innings in T20s - thrice for Sussex, twice for Afghanistan. World Record is 6 inns by Alfonso Thomas. #IREvAFG— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) August 23, 2018
“If, come the end, he hasn’t hadn’t a successful week in the end column then I think we will have had a successful week.
“The top order has to perform, it’s our job to put a total on the board. If you expose the tail to Rashid he’s going to have one over on them, but if we minimise the wickets he gets in that top seven then a lot of games we’ll come out on top.”
The sides last met in the ODI format in March, at the final of the ICC World Cup qualifier in Harare.
On that occasion Afghanistan were again victorious, pipping their opponents to a place at next summer’s tournament in England.
They also sit two places above Ireland in the ODI table, 10th versus 12th, but Porterfield is far from pessimistic.
“We have a lot of confidence, we’ve played a lot against Afghanistan in this format in our own conditions and come out on top,” he said.
“The longer format has probably suited us for whatever reason over the last couple of years. We haven’t been able to put it together in T20s but 50 overs and the longer format we have been able. If we can hit the ground running it makes the week a hell of a lot easier rather than coming from behind.”