Monday 23 October 2017

Afghans have upper hand on testing day for Irish

Ireland's William Porterfield
Ireland's William Porterfield

David Townsend

Ireland will have to bat out of their boots over the next three days to avoid losing pole position in the race to become the next Test-playing country, after Afghanistan racked up a dominant 357-6 on the first day of a make-or-break InterContinental Cup clash, near to Delhi.

After William Porterfield lost the toss, the Boys in Green were condemned to a long hot 'day in the dirt' watching opener Mohammad Shazad thump 85 and Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai walk off 110 not out on a pitch that took slow spin from the first hour.

John Anderson, in the side as a middle-order batsman, claimed two of the three wickets to fall before tea with his occasional leg breaks, but senior spinner George Dockrell toiled without success until Mohammad Nabi lofted him to mid-off shortly before stumps.

The visitors stuck to their task impressively, none more so than off-spinner Andy McBrine, who picked up two wickets, and Malahide seamer Peter Chase, who bent his back on an unresponsive pitch and was rewarded late on with one of the three wickets lost by the hosts after reaching 318-3.

"The pitch looked and played very flat," said wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien. "It offered nothing for the seamers but they did a good job for us - 'Chaser' did especially well. There is some spin there already, so we expect it to turn more and more as the game goes on. We stuck at it. It was tough as Afghanistan played very well and came at us aggressively at times. Hopefully we can take the last four wickets quickly and then get heads down and bat and bat and bat."

Ireland's chances of doing that and gaining six points for a first-innings lead, never mind going on to win, will not be helped by an injury to in-form opener Paul Stirling who damaged a finger on his left hand and did not reappear after leaving the field.

Anything other than an outright defeat (first innings and match) will keep Ireland top of the IC Cup table with two round robin matches to play, against the Netherlands and Scotland. The winners play the Test Challenge against the lowest ranked Full Member, probably Zimbabwe.

Friendships have been damaged, admits Kohli

India wrapped up a thrilling series win over Australia with an eight-wicket win in the fourth Test in Dharamsala.

Left with a chase of 106 following their skittling of Australia for 137, they came into the fourth day requiring another 87 runs to win and they did it for the loss of two wickets, with Lokesh Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane seeing them to a 2-1 series win.

Rahul finished with 51 not out and Rahane added an unbeaten 38 as India ensured there would be no dramas when there might have been after Australia took two wickets in the seventh over of the day.

Murali Vijay fell with the score on 46 when he nicked a moving ball from Pat Cummins and then Cheteshwar Pujara needlessly ran himself out for a duck five balls later.

But Rahul and stand-in captain Rahane put their foot down and raced across the winning line with a partnership of 61 off 59 balls, with Rahul going past 50 as he hit the winning runs.

Injured Indian skipper Virat Kohli praised the efforts of his players but indicated the friendships between players from both sides had been lost over the course of what was, at times, an ill-tempered four-match series.

"No, it has changed," he said, about the friendships.

"I thought that was the case, but it has changed for sure. As I said, in the heat of the battle you want to be competitive but I've been proven wrong. The thing I said before the first Test, that has certainly changed and you won't hear me say that ever again.

"We have maintained our position with some really good cricket in recent months. The team has shown the tenacity to bounce back from difficult situations."

The next Test assignment for Steve Smith's Australia will be the 2017/'18 Ashes, beginning in November.

Irish Independent

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