Sunday 22 September 2019

No miracle but fighting Irish make Pakistan work for win

Ed Joyce (second right) celebrates with his Ireland team-mates after catching out Haris Sohail of Pakistan, off a delivery from Boyd Rankin (centre), during the final day of the Test in Malahide. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ed Joyce (second right) celebrates with his Ireland team-mates after catching out Haris Sohail of Pakistan, off a delivery from Boyd Rankin (centre), during the final day of the Test in Malahide. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Gerard Hughes

The Miracle of Malahide did not materialise on the final day of Ireland's first Test match but the new boys gave Pakistan a mighty scare and pushed the visitors all the way before succumbing to a respectable five-wicket defeat shortly before tea.

When Tim Murtagh grabbed his sixth wicket of the match, Pakistan were a barely credible 14-3 in pursuit of 160 to win and Ireland's dreams of becoming only the fourth side to win after having to follow on were nudging into expectation territory.

There was just enough 'nibble' in Phil Frost's excellent surface for the Middlesex seamer to worry the Pakistan top order and if a tough, low chance had been held at third slip with 100 still required it could have been a different story - but probably not.

A fourth-wicket partnership of 126 effectively settled the issue, despite a late run-out featuring Andy Balbirnie and bowler Stuart Thompson, and a wicket for Thompson who will be considered one of the finds of the week for Ireland coach Graham Ford.

Perhaps it was fitting that the winning runs were hit by opener Imam-ul-Haq, one of the debutants on the other side, because it was Inzamam's nephew who was involved in the very first action of the game when he was flattened in a Niall O'Brien and Tyrone Kane sandwich.


Imam strode off unbeaten on 74 but it was Kevin O'Brien who picked up the man of the match award, with the added bonus of forever being the first name of Ireland's Test match roll of honour board.

"I'm extremely proud of how we went about it, all five days really. I can't fault anyone at all," said captain William Porterfield. "Most of our batsmen, myself included, would have wanted to have their first innings again if they could but everything else was fine.

"It was one of those sort of games, where you find it hard not to look at the little opportunities here and there but the lads acquitted themselves well.

"The biggest thing was how we fought back in the second innings with the bat - that showed the character we have. It's something that's been talked about during big occasions, World Cups.

"That's always been known to be there but Test cricket is Test cricket for a reason, it's there in the name, you did get tested and we were after the first innings.

"It would have been nice to get an extra few runs this morning but at 14-3, sitting there, we got a proper sniff against a quality line-up.

"If we could have got a couple more wickets, if we'd broken that partnership a bit earlier then it's completely different game."

Going into the fifth day, hopes of a stunning win were resting largely on how many O'Brien and the Ireland tail could muster in addition to the lead of 139 they had built on Monday evening. The answer was: not very many.

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O'Brien himself, Ireland's first Test centurion, had not added to his overnight 118 when he was caught behind and despondently departed having faced 217 balls and hit 12 boundaries.

The baton thus passed to Kane and he was in no mood to be budged. The Merrion all-rounder, who was a surprise pick and still looking for his first Test wicket last night, had offered O'Brien stout resistance in an eighth-wicket partnership of 50 and now helped Boyd Rankin eke out another 11.

Rankin chopped on for six and Kane's 96-ball innings also ended with stumps broken via edge of the bat as Ireland were all out for 339.

His doughty effort had lasted 128 minutes for 14 runs - another 20 or so of either would have made things very interesting.

There will be more one-sided and difficult five-day Tests ahead for Porterfield and his side in foreign climes and conditions, where the lack of strike bowlers and a genuine spinner will be exposed, and Ireland will soon have to face those challenges without their greatest batsman Ed Joyce who may now finally retire his creaking bones while still firmly gripping that cherished cap.

But after a glorious four days in Malahide, following a washed-out opening day, there is now no question that the 11th team to play Test cricket are in any way out of place.

Irish Independent

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