HARSH REALITY ON IRELAND’S TEST BOW
The eyes of the Irish cricket public were fixed very firmly on Malahide this weekend as Ireland made their keenly-anticipated debut on the Test stage against a quality Pakistan outfit. It was the culmination of years, if not decades, of work by many people and yet the weather Gods, so often the bane of the sport in this country were to take a hand from Day 1.
The rain in North Dublin started early on Thursday morning and by the time the clouds had dispersed- so to had players, umpires and all but a handful of hearty supporters determined to wring what they could from a miserable day.
Fast forward 24 hours and the scene had changed dramatically with bright sunshine greeting the captains as they made their way to the middle for the historic toss.
The home side opted to leave Craig Young, Andy McBrine and James Shannon out of the starting XI meaning four of the current North West Warriors would be among the first players to receive an Ireland Test Cap.
The match itself started well with Rankin and Tim Murtagh claiming their side’s first Test wickets respectively before Asad Shafiq (62) and Harris Sohail (31) repaired things with a 58-run stand.
The real damage was still to come however with Faheem Ashraf (83) and Shadab Khan (55) combining for a 117-run partnership for the 7th wicket.
Once Ashraf was out- Caught by Niall O’Brien off the bowling of Stuart Thompson, the visitors declared on 310-9 leaving William Porterfield’s men to bat for 35 minutes before lunch.
Unfortunately, it was to be half an hour of carnage- Ed Joyce’s unfortunate lbw decision one of 3 Irish wickets to fall with only 5 runs on the board.
Things got worse immediately after lunch with Niall O’Brien’s dismissal leaving the hosts 7-4 before Kevin O’Brien dug in to add some respectability.
O’Brien finally went for 40 and that coupled with an unbeaten 33 for an injured Gary Wilson batting at number 9 and 17 apiece from Paul Stirling and Boyd Rankin saw Ireland to 130 all out in their first innings.
Tim Murtagh claimed 4 wickets for Porterfield’s team in that Pakistan innings but Eglinton’s Stuart Thompson did his stock no harm at all with an excellent 3-62- vindicating his inclusion in the side.
And so with the game now reduced to 4 days and Ireland still 180 adrift, Pakistan opted to enforce the follow-on.
Porterfield and Joyce fared better second time around and their half-century partnership just before the end of Day 3 certainly gave their supporters something to cheer.
Still, plenty of cricket to be played then over the next two days but it’s a tough ask from here for Ireland to save the Test now that the sun has found its way to Fingal.