AFGHANISTAN VS IRELAND, 2019
Cricbuzz Staff •
Rashid Khan picked up Afghanistan’s first-ever five-fer in Test cricket. © AFP
One team needs 118 runs and the other requires nine wickets. A first ever Test win is at stake for both Ireland and Afghanistan at the conclusion of the third day’s play. Surely there’s enough motivation to not throw the towel in. Given how little Test cricket either side plays, the next genuine opportunity to go one-up seems a fair distance away.
From an Afghanistan bowling point of view, the tea break was just as effective as the lunch one. With the O’Brien-Dockrell counter-attack restoring some calm in the proceedings after the mini-wobble, Rashid struck twice in consecutive overs to send both of them back, both to pretty marginal LBW calls, on the way to his and Afghanistan’s first ever fifer in Test cricket.
With nine wickets down and a lead of just 88, it did look like things could end this evening itself. But Afghanistan’s first innings nemesis, the final-wicket stand was at it again, frustrating them with a quickfire 58-run partnership to lift themselves to something respectable contest-worthy. Tim Murtagh, once again, raised a serious bid for his promotion up the order, with some well-timed strokes in his 32-ball 27, as James Cameron-Dow (32 off 39) too made the most of some desperate bowling to clean up the tail that went horribly wrong.
Afghanistan had an hour to negotiate today, with the possibility of moving onto an extra thirty minutes of extension if they hoped to chase this down in the evening, but the person who had to explode, Mohammad Shahzad, shut shop. It took him 23 deliveries to get off the mark, and then another ten deliveries to eventually get strangled down leg off Andy McBrine to end what was such an uncharacteristically tame innings.
Ishanullah Janat too waited until the final couple of overs in the session to unleash a flurry of boundaries, with Afghanistan going at just about a-run-an-over until that point. Ireland too didn’t experiment with their bowling, persisting with an unchanged combo of Dockrell and McBrine for fifteen overs off the sixteen that were bowled despite not quite troubling the batsmen enough.
So, with the pitch still staying largely good as we enter into the fourth day, Ireland have a real task on their hands. But given the certified history in this Test where a wicket brings about a collapse, they’d hope they get that one quickly in the morning. Afghanistan would be just as vary, but importantly, would know they’d have to do something pretty foolish to lose this from here.
Brief scores: Afghanistan 314 all-out and 29-1 in 16 overs (Ihsanullah Janat 16; Andy McBrine 1-8) need another 118 runs vs Ireland 172 all-out and 288 all-out (Andrew Balbirnie 82, Kevin O’Brien 56; Rashid Khan 5-82)