Cricket: Achilles injury casts doubt over Johnston's final fling
GEORGE DOCKRELL grabbed three wickets in as many overs as Ireland closed in on victory over Afghanistan in the InterContinental Cup final.
Niall O'Brien top-scored with 87 and Ed Joyce made 78 to help Ireland's second innings to 341 and set the reigning champions a daunting target of 347 to retain their title.
Dockrell held a return catch to dismiss livewire Mohammad Shahzad for 39 then produced a double-wicket maiden to leave the Afghans floundering on 136-5 at the close.
The one cloud on Ireland's day was an Achilles injury to Trent Johnston that left the 39-year-old in doubt for what will be his final day of international cricket.
"Trent is such a key bowler and we can only hope he'll be able to get back on," Niall O'Brien said -- although it would bode well for the future if Ireland can finish off their closest non-Test playing rivals without their veteran talisman.
Resuming on 159-2, Ireland had planned to bat all day but Joyce was bowled by the sixth ball of the morning and a collapse either side of lunch led to a rapid rethink. Kevin O'Brien steered the ship into calmer waters with nine fours in a beefy 47 and Johnston found the boundary five times in his final innings.
"We had hoped to set them 400-plus, but we knew that around 350 would take some getting, so we were happy enough with that," O'Brien added.
"On a personal level, it was disappointing not to get to 100. I've scored centuries in the other two finals I've played in and perhaps that was playing on my mind a bit."
Johnston was last out after striking a useful 31 and then claimed an lbw victim with his fifth delivery -- but he could manage just seven more balls before hobbling off.
John Mooney, the five-wicket hero of the first innings, bagged another scalp via an inside edge and a diving catch that O'Brien said took him back to his teenage years behind the stumps.
But it was the left-arm spin of Dockrell that inflicted the heavy damage and briefly threatened to wrap up Ireland's fourth title on the third evening of the five-day final.
A solid unbeaten sixth-wicket partnership of 51 between skipper Mohammad Nabi and Rahmat Shah put paid to that, but Afghanistan still require another 211.
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