Cricket: Cusack heroics open door for Ireland
ALEX CUSACK and Max Sorensen took four wickets each as Ireland made up for lost time by dismissing Afghanistan for 84 at Rathmines yesterday when play finally got under way in the four-day InterContinental Cup clash.
After two days and a session had been lost to rain, Kevin O'Brien won a crucial toss and his side bowled out their visitors before tea, with Trent Johnston claiming the other two wickets.
Six bonus points for a first-innings lead were comfortably secured after Andrew Balbirnie and Paul Stirling added 49 for the first wicket. Balbirnie fell for 21, and Stirling crashed six fours and a six over cover point before he too was caught at slip for 42.
With Cusack and Gary Wilson adding an unbeaten 61 for the third wicket, Ireland closed on 126-2 and, given a full day's play today, the former champions may yet be able force a remarkable win.
Whoever had to bat first was bound to struggle on a green, seaming pitch at the Leinster club and the Afghan opening partnership lasted only nine balls before Johnston clipped the stumps via an inside edge.
Sorensen, who took his Irish best figures of 4-39, also clattered the timber in his third over, and Cusack went one better by breaking a stump in two to remove danger man Mohammed Shehzad.
In their World Cup qualifier defeat last week, Afghanistan had made the mistake of trying to play Cusack off the back foot and repeated the error allowing the Clontarf all-rounder to find a way through to the stumps three times in all.
A sharp slip catch by Andrew White gave Cusack his fourth wicket, but as he tired a first Ireland five-for evaded him and he had to settle for a personal best of 4-31 in first-class games as Sorensen wrapped up the innings.