Afghanistani deception overshadows Irish woes
Rashid Khan worked his leg-spinning magic for Afghanistan in an evening session of drama and controversy in Delhi yesterday to leave Ireland facing the prospect of an innings defeat which would oust the Boys in Green from top spot on the InterContinental Cup ladder.
After Afghanistan had declared on 537-8, Ireland looked in little trouble as Andy Balbirnie and Ed Joyce added 117 for the second wicket, but when both departed in the space of seven balls, Rashid ripped through the middle order to leave the visitors reeling on 170-7 at stumps.
Once Balbirnie had offered up a bat-pad on 62 at the other end, Rashid had a flummoxed Joyce lbw for 45 and quickly sent back Gary Wilson, Niall O'Brien, George Dockrell and an injured Paul Stirling, batting at No 8, in a blur of confusion.
Sadly for the image of Afghanistan cricket, Rashid's mesmerising spell of 5-54 had to fight for top billing with another unsavoury incident involving Mohammad Nabi, the veteran all-rounder who ran out Joyce from beyond the boundary at Stormont last season.
This time Nabi claimed a slip catch off Balbirnie when TV replays clearly showed him drop the chance and then pick the ball off the ground and throw it up, claiming the wicket.
It was a disgraceful attempt at deceit by a player who was officially reprimanded for the Joyce incident.
Earlier Afghan wicketkeeper Afsar Zazai had stood his ground and refused to walk when opposite number O'Brien held a stunning low catch, one-handed.
The umpires felt unable to confirm that the ball had carried - it clearly had - and Zazai went on to complete a century.
Ireland have only ever lost two IC Cup matches but it will take something special to escape from this one with the follow-on target 218 runs away and only John Anderson and the tail left.
Indeed Afghanistan could win today and claim maximum points with a full day to spare.