Cricket: Thompson sparkles on Ireland debut
STUART THOMPSON took his first international wickets as Ireland came tantalisingly close to pulling off a remarkable victory over Afghanistan at Rathmines yesterday before settling for a draw in the rain-ruined InterContinental Cup clash.
Gary Wilson top-scored with 73 as Ireland extended their overnight lead of 42 to 167 before declaring on 251-4 and asking the IC Cup holders to bat two and a bit sessions to save face after being dismissed for only 84 on Wednesday.
If a dolly had been held at square leg off the bowling of Trent Johnston just before lunch, Ireland might have roared through the breach, but the ball hit the turf and the Afghan openers added a further 103 before they were separated by spinner Albert van der Merwe.
Thompson, a lively medium pacer who is attracting the attention of Somerset and Kent, then hit the stumps for his first wicket on his senior debut and had a comfortable catch taken at slip in his next over.
With time running out, the 20-year-old from Derry claimed a third victim, his final figures were 3-51, but two balls later Ireland were again guilty of dropping a crucial chance when an edge was spilled at third slip.
Still the home side kept chipping away with Max Sorensen adding two wickets to his four in the first innings and when Andrew White had a chance held at slip in his first over, Afghanistan were only 18 runs ahead with three wickets left.
Time was against Ireland, though -- more than half the scheduled four-day game had been lost to the weather -- and an unbeaten half-century from Asghar Stanikzai was just enough to save the defending champions, who closed on 208-7.
Ireland collected a total of 13 points -- seven for the draw (because more than 10 hours were lost to the weather) and six for a first-innings lead -- and extended their advantage at the top of the InterContinental Cup ladder to 21 over Scotland, with Afghanistan a further two points adrift in third.
As Afghanistan and Scotland still have to play each other, Ireland probably only need one win from their remaining three games against the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland to secure a place in next year's final.