Wednesday 17 October 2018

Joyce digs in to provide a sliver of hope after Pakistani reality check

Ed Joyce defends a delivery from Mohammad Abbas of Pakistan. Photo: Sportsfile
Ed Joyce defends a delivery from Mohammad Abbas of Pakistan. Photo: Sportsfile

David Townsend

Ed Joyce gave shell-shocked Ireland a glimmer of hope in Malahide last night by adding an unbeaten 64 with fellow opener William Porterfield after the Test match new boys were shot out for 130 by Pakistan and asked to follow on 180 runs behind.

Ireland's greatest batsman, who had waited two decades to play a Test innings, found himself at the crease twice in the same day as Ireland were given a sharp reminder of the step up necessary to match the bigger nations in five-day games.

The Bray-born 39-year-old managed just four before lunch, although he was unlucky to be given out lbw to a ball pitching outside leg stump, but after a watchful start to his second innings a flowing cover drive got the feet moving and he ended the third day on 39 not out.

"Pakistan could have batted again (rather than enforcing the follow-on) but the forecast is a bit iffy on the final day and I'm sure that was a factor," Joyce said.

"I wanted to get back out there and get some runs. I thought William and I did okay. We had a bit of luck with two dropped chances and it could have been different.

"It's a Test match and these guys are very, very good bowlers. There's no let up. They had us 7-4 and from that position it's very hard to get anything going although Kevin (O'Brien) and Paul (Stirling) counterattacked and Gary Wilson played a gutsy innings. We could have been 70 or 80 all out."

Joyce's former Middlesex colleague Tim Murtagh took 4-45 before Pakistan declared on 310-9, giving Ireland's top order a tricky half-hour of batting before lunch. Hoping for a wicket, maybe two, the visitors took three as Andy Balbirnie was also lbw and Porterfield lost his off stump to the final ball of the session.

When Niall O'Brien became a third lbw victim, Ireland had lost four wickets without finding the boundary and Test cricket's all-time lowest total of 26 was in greater danger than the follow on target of 161.

Kevin O'Brien finally recorded his side's first four with a fortuitous inside edge and his partnership with Stirling was steering Ireland towards calmer waters when the latter had a brain freeze and essayed an ugly cross between a cut and pull that looped up to mid-off.

The younger O'Brien played a couple of gorgeous drives to the boundary and had found the ropes five times when he slapped loosely to cover for a top score of 40 ,while Wilson showed grit by insisting on batting despite a suspected cracked bone in his elbow.

Hopes

Boyd Rankin, who in his first Test innings for England struck the boundary that avoided the follow-on in Sydney, briefly raised hopes of doing the same again as he used various parts of the bat to match Stirling's 17, before he was caught behind.

Murtagh quickly followed, propping a catch to short leg, leaving Wilson unbeaten on 33 and the visitors enforced the follow-on for the first time in 16 years - the previous occasion, to make home supporters feel a little better, after making 643 they bowled out New Zealand for 73.

After the first-day washout, Ireland had started life in Test cricket on Saturday with a competent if unspectacular display in the field. At 159-6, there were genuine hopes of dismissing Pakistan below 250 and despite an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 109 a crowd of around 5,000 would have gone home thinking they had seen a proper day of Test cricket.

Yesterday, with cricket-mad Mick Jagger watching on, there was far less satisfaction to be found.

  • Ireland v Pakistan, live, Sky Sports, 11.0

Irish Independent

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