Tuesday 23 April 2019

Balbirnie and O'Brien dig in to give Ireland a sliver of hope

Dean Carlisle, one of a handful of new players who have joined the Fingal club this season, top scored with 79 in his side’s 228-7. Photo: Stock Image
Dean Carlisle, one of a handful of new players who have joined the Fingal club this season, top scored with 79 in his side’s 228-7. Photo: Stock Image

David Townsend

Andy Balbirnie and Kevin O'Brien battled to half-centuries on a slow, wearing pitch as Ireland gave themselves a sniff of victory by setting Afghanistan a tricky 147 to win the one-off Test in India.

Balbirnie struck 11 fours in a top-quality knock of 82 while O'Brien made an assured 56 before he was the final victim of three poor decisions by umpire Sunderarm Ravi.

It needed a last-wicket stand of 58 between Tim Murtagh and James Cameron-Dow to take Ireland to 288 all out and give the bowlers something to work with, and Andy McBrine grabbed the important wicket of Mohammad Shazad before Afghanistan closed on 29-1.

Paul Stirling was the first to rue the lack of DRS technology when Ravi missed a thick inside edge and adjudged him lbw for 14 but Balbirnie then found a good foil in young James McCollum for a third-wicket partnership of 104.

At lunch, Ireland were only 18 in arrears with eight wickets left but Balbirnie's exit sparked another middle-order collapse, with McCollum, Stuart Poynter and Stuart Thompson falling rapidly.

O'Brien and George Dockrell steadied the ship, adding 63 for the seventh wicket, only for both to be sawn off by lbw decisions, but last man Murtagh made 27 to add to his top score of 54 not out in the first innings and Ireland became only the fourth team in Test history to manage two 50-plus partnerships for the 10th wicket in the same match.

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